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Mary Peteranna and Lindsey Stirling of AOC Archaeology report on recent work carried out as part of the River Ness Flood Alleviation scheme, which revealed the remains of buildings beneath the city streets which were thought to have been lost forever
View north along Bank Street, showing the River Ness FAS excavation trench
Example of a trench section on Bank Street, showing the tarmac over granite sett road surface and the layers of build-up in between

Inverness city centre as it is recognised today has its roots in the 12th-century medieval royal burgh, although archaeological evidence has clearly shown that prehistoric occupation began in the Mesolithic period some 8,000 years ago. Amidst the modern buildings and infrastructure, it is difficult to imagine the industrialperiod city centre, much less the old town of the medieval burgh. Yet remnants of it still exist, some hidden in plain sight, others buried beneath the streets.

Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, is located at the mouth of the river Ness, the city’s focal point throughout history. The city has seen many changes since prehistory, with formalised settlement established in the medieval period in the form of a royal burgh. Subsequent centuries have seen periods of turbulence, decline and industrial expansion, all of which have left their mark on the town and the river banks.

Recent development works to protect the city today as part of the River Ness Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) have provided archaeologists with an important opportunity to identify and record remains of old Inverness, from Bridge Street at the south to Thornbush Quay at the north. The works have been key to understanding the extent of archaeological survival below the streets of the present city centre, providing glimpses into the past within narrow corridors of cabling and sheet piling trenches.

With almost 100 sites recorded, archaeologists have uncovered remnants from the medieval period onwards, including an early boundary ditch, building walls and foundations, road surfaces and culverts, quays and slipways, wells and midden pits. The artefact assemblages consist mostly of glass bottles and ceramic vessel fragments from the 19th century, with some individual items from the same period, while a few keys finds include a 15th-century candlestick holder and part of a 16th- to 17th -century Frechen stoneware jug.

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About History Scotland

In this packed issue we continue our pioneering new series which focuses on the Stewart queen consorts, exploring the life of Arabella Drummond (c.1350-1401) who played a significant role in governing the country following the incapacity of her husband Robert III of Scots. Also in this issue: · The ‘richest commoner’ and his Barra tenants · Excavations beneath the streets of Inverness · New reconstruction of St Andrew’s Cathedral Plus: Family history advice, archaeology dig reports and finds analysis, National Records of Scotland column and lots more…