Archaeologists to investigate prehistoric settlement and Iron Age fort

Excavations, surveys and more will be taking place at sites across the country from Orkney to Edinburgh.

Scotland Digs 2023: Archaeologists to investigate prehistoric settlement and Iron Age fort Holyrood Archaeology Project

Archaeologists are to investigate a prehistoric settlement, a multi-period castle site and Iron Age fort in Scotland this summer.

The Scotland Digs 2023: Free Days Out campaign is celebrating the country’s world-class archaeology and highlighting budget-friendly activities for the public.

Now in its fifth iteration, the national campaign coordinated by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s Dig It! project will assemble updates and fieldwork events for the public through social media and an online hub from June 21 to September 22.

Survey, recording, excavation and more will take place in urban and rural areas across the country, with many sites welcoming members of the public with free tours, open days and volunteering opportunities available with no experience required.

In Orkney, members of the public are invited to watch volunteers and archaeologists from the UHI Archaeology Institute at work as they return to The Cairns on South Ronaldsay.

Excavation began at the site in 2006, revealing a large Iron Age broch (c. 100 BC – AD 200) and over 20 other structures dating from the Iron Age through to the Norse period. 

Cairns site director Mark Carruthers with Holly Young (Tim Winterburn)

Thousands of artefacts and animal bones have been recovered from the complex since then, including prehistoric human hair and a beautifully preserved 2,000-year-old wooden bowl.

The public can visit the site for free on weekdays from now until July 7 and read about the excavation on

In Fife, visitors are invited to tour a multi-period site and get a hands-on archaeology experience for free as part of a project to uncover the history of the East Neuk.

Organised by four archaeologists from the University of St Andrews, a team of students and volunteers have been exploring the Pittarthie Farm landscape near West Lingo as part of the Petardy Historic Landscape Project since 2020.

Field walking, metal detecting and excavation by various groups and individuals over the years has already revealed evidence from the Neolithic through to the Modern period, with key finds including a fragmented sword pommel dated to around AD 1200 – 1340.

Open days will take place on June 28, July 5 and July 12 and will include a tour of the ruins of Pittarthie Castle, near Dunino, and an opportunity to take part in excavating the castle gardens and help conduct a geophysical survey.

The work has been supported by the University of St Andrews Community Fund which awarded over £1,000 for the project.

In Edinburgh, the public can visit the site of a 2,500-year-old hillfort on Dunsapie Crag in Holyrood Park and find out more about current investigations from University of Edinburgh students with the Holyrood Archaeology Project.  

In partnership with Historic Environment Scotland and AOC Archaeology, the students have been using excavation and geophysical survey to investigate Dunsapie Iron Age fort since 2021, which has resulted in the discovery of ramparts, pottery and a 2,000-year-old copper bangle.

In addition to watching the team at work from August 28 to September 15, the public can also attend a free open day with guided tours featuring some of the finds.

Developer-led archaeology undertaken as part of the planning process (such as the building of new houses, schools or roads) will also take place over the summer.

AOC Archaeology will be uncovering an Iron Age settlement and structural remains, including a stone-built subterranean passage known as a souterrain, in advance of a new housing development being built in Perth & Kinross.

The public are invited to join a tour of the Forfar Road site at the free open day on June 24 in Meigle.

Archaeological fieldwork which welcomes visitors or volunteers is also taking place in East Lothian with the 1722 Waggonway Project, in the Highlands with UHI Archaeology Institute and Yarrows Heritage Trust, and in the Cairngorms with University College Dublin.

Additional events will also occur in Orkney with UHI Archaeology Institute and the Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust, in Fife with the Falkland Stewardship Trust and University of Aberdeen, and in Edinburgh with the Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society. More events will be announced throughout the campaign.

For anyone who is unable to attend sites in person, fieldwork organisers will be posting updates on social media throughout the summer using #ScotlandDigs2023.

Dr Jeff Sanders FSAScot, Project Manager at the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s Dig It! project, said:  “Archaeology is all about discovering Scotland’s stories which is one of the reasons why we’re excited about this summer of fieldwork events.

Digs are taking place at sites across Scotland this summer

“Scotland Digs 2023: Free Days Out gives the public an opportunity to get involved in unearthing these stories while offering budget-friendly ways to be physically active, connect with others, get outdoors and learn new skills at a time when value for money is on a lot of people’s minds.”

Susan O’Connor, head of grants at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “We are thrilled to support Dig It! with their exciting Scotland Digs 2023 programme of events this year.

“The open days at various archaeological sites throughout Scotland are a great way for members of the public to form new connections with our built heritage from a range of different eras.

“We encourage everyone interested to take part in local activities wherever possible, and to take this opportunity to enjoy the history that surrounds us, whether that be in the buildings we work in, the fields we walk past, or the hills we climb.”

Dig It!, which advertises archaeology events throughout the year, is coordinated by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and primarily funded by Historic Environment Scotland.   

For more information, follow #ScotlandDigs2023 or visit

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