Archaeologists Have Discovered What May Be The Lost Monastery Of A Scottish Princess From The 7th Century

The remains of the 7th century Scottish monastery founded by Anglo-Saxon Princess Aebbe may have finally been unearthed after decades of searching for its location.

A general view of the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire on May 26, 2016 in Thirsk, England.
Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

The remains of the 7th century Scottish monastery founded by Anglo-Saxon Princess Aebbe may have finally been unearthed after decades of searching for its location.

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe could be the lost 7th century monastery of the Scottish Princess known as Aebbe, who lived from 615 to 668 A.D. This famous princess later in life discarded her pagan beliefs and became a devout convert to Christianity, spreading the teachings of Jesus far and wide, and particularly along the northeast coast of England.

As Live Science reports, the discovery of the monastery was made not only by archaeologists, but also by citizen scientists who were keen to discover if any remains were left of the Coldingham monastery that Princess Aebbe had established in Scotland. While the monastery was once heavily in use during the 7th century, Vikings thoroughly obliterated it in 870, thus concluding the important work that Aebbe had started here.

Archaeologists have spent decades researching where the remains of this monastery could be, and recently unearthed a round ditch which may have once been the vallum that circled around the Coldingham monastery.

The announcement that the remains of Princess Aebbe’s monastery may have finally been unearthed was made on March 8 by DigVentures, which is an archaeological group in the UK which is able to focus on projects of their choice thanks to crowdfunding.

Maiya Pina-Dacier, who heads up the group at DigVentures, explained that vallums weren’t generally massive structures, but were usually created more like markers.

“Vallums weren’t necessarily deep, intimidating defensive structures but more like a symbolic marker to show that you were entering a venerated or spiritual place.”

Very close to the vallum, archaeologists also discovered what turned out to be an enormous pile of animal bones, including the slaughtered remains of animals like goats, sheep, horses, cattle, red deer, and domestic fowl. After submitting the bones to radiocarbon dating, archaeologists have concluded that the animal remains stretch back in time to between 664 and 864, which is in perfect keeping with the time that the monastery would have been active.

Loading...

As DigVentures program manager Manda Forster noted, “This is pretty much exactly when Aebbe’s monastery was in existence. Originally built around 640 A.D., it is said to have burned down shortly after her death but was then rebuilt and thrived until it was destroyed once again by Viking raiders 200 years later.”

Other areas that archaeologists previously surveyed in their hunt for the Scottish princess’s lost monastery included a sheer cliff top in Coldingham, in a location jutting out directly over the sea. However, up until now, archaeologists did not find any direct evidence which would have linked the sites scouted with the monastery.

Excavation work is currently continuing around what is presumed to have been Princess Aebbe’s Coldingham monastery, with funding coming from Friends of Coldingham Priory and the U.K. National Lottery Heritage Fund.