Sterling finds from Stirling

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The First World War Austrian army belt buckle found in Stirling. It was standard issue for Austrian enlisted troops. (Image: ARO)

Two sites in Stirling are revealing new evidence of the castle and burgh’s inhabitants over the decades, from the medieval period through to the modern day, thanks to post-excavation analysis by GUARD archaeology. more than 2,000 artefacts – ranging from medieval pottery and 17th-century clay tobacco pipes to a more modern iron knife and a First World War Austrian army belt buckle – provide a snapshot of the town and castle through the years.

The first site – an eroding multi-century midden located in the woods immediately to the west of Stirling Castle, just below the fortification’s walls – was excavated by local volunteers and students from the nearby Allan’s Primary School, supervised by the Stirling Council archaeologist Dr Murray Cook. The second location formed part of the Back Walk – a path, built in the 18th century, that winds up to the top of the ridge on which the castle and old part of the town are located. This investigation was carried out in 2015 by GUARD archaeology on the section of the Walk adjacent to Cowane’s Hospital and the Church of the Holy Rude, in advance of work to repair the retaining wall.

The Back Walk in Stirling, which was excavated in 2015 by GUARD archaeology. The post-excavation analysis of finds from the site has helped reveal the lives of the castle and burgh inhabitants from the medieval period to the present day. (Image: ARO)

Among the finds, pottery sherds dominated, comprising a wide range of types including Scottish medieval redware, Scottish post-medieval oxidised ware, and modern industrial stoneware. While most of the medieval and early post-medieval examples appear to have had Scottish origins, possibly suggesting a preference for local goods and the importance of pottery production in the area, the presence of fragments from England and the Continent indicates the use of imported products as well.

The material from both the midden and the Back Walk seems to have accumulated from people dumping rubbish over the edge of the crag, and as most of the pottery – including the more modern sherds – shows signs of wear, this suggests that the material had been re-deposited over time. It is thought, due to the nature of the finds, that many of the artefacts are likely to have come from the Castle.

The full excavation report by GUARD archaeologist Bob Will can be accessed for free at

This article appeared in CA 338.

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