At the last talk of the winter series on Sat 10th March Professor Ian Ralston OBE gave an illustrated talk on Neolithic times at Doon Hill and Balbirdie in Aberdeenshire. Ian has been a member of the society since he was a school boy and was one of the local volunteers who helped Brian Hope Taylor with his excavation between 1964-6. Hope Taylor had carried out his excavation of Yeavering in Northumberland which he had identified as a palace of Edwin, the 7th century King of Northumbria. Hope Taylor concluded that the building on Doon Hill had been similar in scale and date to that at Yeavering.
The site was stabilised as a tourist attraction and usually referred to as an Anglo-Saxon hall but the dig was not fully written up. This omission caused a lot of local frustration. This interpretation was challenged in 1980 when a similar site was discovered and excavated at Balbridie. It was established that Balbridie had been built about 3800 BC.
Hope Taylor died in 2001 and it was possible thereafter to radiocarbon date some of his artefacts. This established that they dated from c 4000 BC Indicating that the timber halls were more than 4,000 years older than had been thought.
This amazing conclusion was reported in the Times by Norman Hammond that very day. It made us feel that we were at the sharp edge of knowledge. The lecture was followed by some interesting discussion and by some reminiscence going back to 1966.
The next event will be the annual dinner on Friday 20TH April in the Maitland field Hotel Haddington