Medieval Borders community devastated by military attack to be subject of new research project

25 April 2023
Reconstruction of Bedrule Castle by Andrew Spratt
The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland announced today that it has awarded funding to 15 archaeological and historical projects committed to researching stories from Scottish history.

The Edinburgh-based membership charity supports high-quality research and publication relating to Scotland’s past by making several grants and awards each year. A total of £26,251.00 will be distributed by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to investigate Scottish rock art across the country, a devastated late-medieval Borders community, the lives of 18th-century Scots intellectuals in Rome, and more. 

Prehistoric rock art

The ‘Colouring the Neolithic: Searching for Pigments in Scotland’s Prehistoric Rock Art’ project will seek to “revolutionise our understanding” of prehistoric Scotland by searching for evidence that Neolithic rock art was not always plain stone. The project leaders were inspired by evidence of colour on structures and artefacts from Orkney. Along with evidence of paintings over carvings on the continent, these examples suggest we may also find this combination of techniques in Scotland. 

Dr Joana Valdez-Tullett FSAScot, Prehistorian, Rock Art Specialist and Technical Specialist at Wessex Archaeology, and Dr Louisa Campbell FSAScot, Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Leadership Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, will use rock art examples curated in Scottish museums to develop a pioneering approach to search for tantalising traces of these 5,000-year-old pigments. 

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The Rule Water community

‘The Community of the Twelve Towers of Rule’ project co-ordinated by Professor Jane Bower FSAScot, Chair of the Campaign for a Scottish Borders National Park, aims to piece together the story of a late-medieval Borders community devastated by English forces almost 500 years ago. In 1545, King Henry VIII dispatched an army to lay waste to the valley of Rule Water and the people who lived there.

Thanks to a grant from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, together with funding from Scottish Borders Council and the Campaign for a Scottish Borders National Park, the project will bring together dispersed and limited archival records to create a fuller understanding of the economy, society and culture of the valley of the Rule right up to the time it was destroyed. 

Scots in 18th-century Rome

Dr Marion Amblard FSAScot, Senior Lecturer in Scottish and British studies at Grenoble Alpes University, will also investigate the Scottish community who lived in Rome between 1719 and 1798. This community was made up of political exiles, artists, antiquarians, art dealers, travellers and young men attending the Scots College. The project entitled 'Scots in 18th-century Rome: Key Actors in the Cultural, Artistic and Diplomatic Life of the Eternal City' will shed light on the influence these Scots had on life in the Italian capital and back home in Scotland. It will also show that the Scottish experience of Rome was different from that of the English and contributed to helping the Scots forge a multifaceted identity, being Scottish, British and European. 

Additional Society of Antiquaries of Scotland grants have been awarded to projects investigating the traces of the earliest human populations on the Isle of Skye, horse name elements in the landscape and language of Galloway, to students in the Scottish Archaeological Forum coordinating a new conference which will highlight efforts to address the under-representation of marginalised groups within archaeology, and more. 

Dr Suzanne Lyle FSAScot, Vice President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and Convenor of the Grants and Awards Committee, said: “Thanks to support from our Fellows, each year we are delighted to offer funding to a number of researchers at different stages in their careers. The projects selected in 2023 demonstrate the high calibre and varied nature of research into Scottish history currently taking place across the globe, all of which will contribute to our understanding of Scotland's past.”

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland grants are open to everyone and the next deadline for applications is 30 November. Visit their website for more information about grant funding and becoming a Fellow.