Helping protect Scotland’s archaeological heritage

We’ve been overseeing the recovery and preservation of Scotland’s Cultural Heritage through our archaeology work with Transport Scotland during the construction of major road projects throughout the country.

Working with our partners on upgrades and improvements of the A75 in Dunragit and the A737 near Dalry, we oversaw the discovery and recovery of remains from the Mesolithic through to the early Medieval period and beyond. The discoveries hint at stories from the past that would have remained untold if not for our client’s careful approach to all its projects and its obligations to and awareness of Cultural Heritage.

Modern design from the distant past

Perhaps some of the most beautiful and intricate objects to date have been revealed during the upgrades to the A75 Dunragit Bypass, near Glen Luce. We oversaw the excavation of the graves of two prehistoric individuals each containing a separate jet necklace likely dating to the Bronze Age. The 167 pieces of high-status grave goods would likely have been strung to produce intricate and elaborate jewellery which people today would find desirable yet they were designed and produced up to 4,000 years ago.

Before these discoveries, just over 20 of this type had been uncovered in Scotland – however none in more recent times. These two Dunragit necklaces have added significantly to the Scottish collection. The presence of jet also points to evidence of extensive trade networks, with the stone likely sourced from Whitby, Yorkshire.

Who were the individuals, what happened to them, did the necklaces signify anything? We’ll probably never know but the painstaking archaeological work that is a fundamental part of Transport Scotland’s projects will provide valuable insights to future generations on the early beginnings of the nation of Scotland.

Medieval lime kiln found on the route of the Dalry Bypass on the A737 which opened a window into a locally important bygone industry
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Experts in WSP’s archaeology and heritage team
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Pieces making up two 4,000 year-old jet necklaces found on a dig on the A75
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Whether it is a flint-knapping site from 10,000 years ago in the Mesolithic, a 6,000-year-old Neolithic long house or a post-Medieval lime kiln, it is a privilege to see these types of site first hand.

Revealing our Cultural Heritage

Our archaeology team has worked on complex archaeological issues across a number of remote locations and with the Scottish Government championing the protection, curation and engagement of its cultural heritage, it is an exciting time in this sector.

The tasks we undertake incorporate the full project cycle, from pre-planning through to excavation of archaeological sites. Desk-based analysis considers wide-ranging archaeological, historical, geotechnical and engineering sources to work out whether a site is likely to produce important and unexpected discoveries and, if so, what the impact will be on the project. This can lead to fieldwork including geophysical surveys and evaluation trenches to full-scale strip excavations. As our team is skilled in all these activities, our presence and involvement can reduce risk by controlling the scope of work of fieldwork subcontractors.

Connecting people to projects through the past

Road projects can be particularly interesting because they are often built across marginal areas of land that have remained undeveloped in more recent times. As a consequence, this lack of development preserves evidence from the past. Recovering important information during construction, about how our ancestors lived and survived, can be a major boost for these schemes. This allows a perfect platform for engagement of the public and provides an opportunity for some of our clients to demonstrate their commitment to Cultural Heritage.

We believe that the key aspect of archaeology on these types of schemes is the ability to engage and stimulate the public’s imagination and thereby create a connection with the project that helps smooth the construction process. We pride ourselves on applying our technical background expertise and integrity to preserve knowledge of archaeological remains for future generations in the best way possible.

Whether it is a flint-knapping site from 10,000 years ago in the Mesolithic, a 6,000-year-old Neolithic long house or a post-Medieval lime kiln, it is a privilege to see these types of site first hand. What our archaeologists do is share and disseminate the knowledge in a digestible manner, creating and engaging a link with the past which can sometimes bring to life the story of a prehistoric beaker or flint knife.

Well planned and performed archaeological engagement during site work can demonstrate that construction is not a destructive process but opens windows into our collective past.