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1 September 2011
Archaeologists move in at ancient Scottish Highland site

An archaeological dig has got underway at Fortingall, near Aberfeldy, one of the earliest places of Christian worship in Highland Perthshire (Scotland).
     Breadalbane Heritage Society has joined forces with Archaeologist Dr Oliver JT O'Grady - best known for carrying out excavations at Scone Palace - to discover more about the village's ancient history. Dr O'Grady is directing the excavation of two trenches in fields surrounding Fortingall, where the remains of an ancient Pictish monastery are believed to rest.
     Targets include a large ditch-like feature believed to have surrounded the ancient parish kirk and famous Fortingall yew tree, which dates to 3000 BCE. Experts believe both landmarks sat at the heart of the site.
     The monastery is thought to be crucial to the region's history because Christianity and literacy first came into the area at such sites during the conversion of the Picts - the ancient Celtic peoples of northern Scotland - from the 7th Century CE. The disciples of St Columba of Iona, such as St Adamnan and St Coeti, are still remembered in tradition and place-names, and may have actually founded the churches at Fortingall and nearby Dull.
     Archaeologist and project director Mr Grady said: "This is a great opportunity to learn more about a site likely to have been closely tied-up in the beginnings of written records in the Highlands and religious belief in Scotland."
     Both archaeologists and local volunteers will be at Fortingall until the end of the month, and are taking visitors' questions.

Edited from Perthshire Advertiser (26 August 2011)

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