‘Birth certificate of Scotland’ unearthed by archaeologists

There has been a remarkable breakthrough in discovering Scotland’s origins.

Oliver O'Grady with Suzanne Urquhart of Scone Abbey

Oliver O’Grady with Suzanne Urquhart of Scone Abbey

The ancient mound known as the Moot Hill in the ground of Scone Palace was once the site of the “lost” abbey of Scone, founded in 1114 by Alexander I, where Scottish kings are believed to have assumed the mantle of power on the Stone of Destiny.

It was revealed yesterday that archaeologists studying the historic site have been able to use radiocarbon dating to push back the origins of the ancient seat of ecclesiastical and royal power to at least 1,000 years ago, in a remarkable breakthrough that has been hailed as uncovering the “birth certificate of Scotland”.

The critical dating evidence came from scientific analysis of carbon samples retrieved during excavations of a massive ditch that once surrounded the Moot Hill.

Dr Oliver O’Grady, the archaeologist who has been leading the excavations at Scone for the past five years, said: “The radiocarbon dates confirm Moot Hill as one of Europe’s extraordinary survivals, unique in Britain and the first assembly-mound in Scotland to be scientifically dated.

“The lab results are in a sense nothing less than a birth certificate for Scotland.”

Dr O’Grady said the radiocarbon dating, carried out by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre laboratories in East Kilbride, had proven beyond doubt the genuine antiquity of Scotland’s ancient inauguration mound.

He said the findings had put paid to the legend that the hill was created by the soil brought to Scone in the shoes of nobility who came to pay homage to Robert the Bruce at his crowning in 1306.

The radiocarbon dating had been based on the samples of burned wood recovered from the base of ditch which surrounds the mound. Dr O’Grady said: “The analysis shows that Moot Hill likely dates to some point between the late ninth century and early 11th century.”

Significantly, the new dating evidence also matches the earliest historical accounts of royal ceremonies being held at Scone contained in a tenth-century chronicle, dating from the reign of King Constantine II, which began in 900.

Dr O’Grady said: “It will probably be debated amongst archaeologists for time to come as to when the hill was first used for a crowning ceremony.

ut it is very striking that the date that we’ve got is so close to the first genuine historical record of Scone in the chronicles of the kings of Alba.

“From a point of probability, until I have other evidence, it seems entirely plausible to me to suggest that King Constantine II, or at least one of his successors, was responsible for the creation of this mound.

“And that should be seen as a very significant moment in Scotland’s history because they are no longer identifying themselves as Picts and they are gathering, as its says in the text ‘in the manner of the Gaels’ and they are holding their most important royal ceremonies on that mound.”

Moot Hill that was centre of power for centuries:

c 700-900 – Scone established as power centre of the Pictish province of Gowrie.

906 – Meeting of Constantine II at Scone with Bishop Cellach of St Andrews.

1114 – Founding of new monastery, with building works continuing over many decades.

1249 – Alexander III inaugurated on Stone of Destiny in abbey cemetery.

1296 – Stone of Destiny (along with other treasures and documents) are removed to Westminster by Edward I.

1298 – Abbey attacked.

1306 – Robert Bruce crowned King of Scots at Scone.

1360s – Abbey in poor state, young canons instructed not to frequent taverns.

1371/1390 – Robert II and Robert III both hold parliaments on Montem (Moot Hill) of Scone.

1400s – Pilgrims attracted to shrine of St Fergus in the abbey church.

1437 – James I assassinated at Blackfriars in Perth.

1551 – Major church repairs.

1559 – Abbey sacked by Protestant reformers.

1606 – Abbey lands granted to David Murray, Lord Stormont.

1618 – Parish church built on Moot Hill.

1631 – 1st Lord Stormont dies, buried in mausoleum on Moot Hill.

1651 – Charles II last king crowned on Moot Hill


About Amanda Moffet

I run www.scotclans.com with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

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One thought on “‘Birth certificate of Scotland’ unearthed by archaeologists

  1. Paul T. Sumler

    I do believe that you and I may be related to one as distant cousins, my 16th great-grandfather was Robert Moffat of that Ilk.and I continued down the line from there to a Mary Moffat who was married to John Lawrence. Mary was the daughter of Lieut. John Moffat, born in 1699 Dumfries shire, Scotland. Nice to come across an article written by a distant cousin.


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