Archaeologists unearth missing piece of jigsaw in Edinburgh’s Cowgate

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Cowgate (Highlighted) – the main route for driving cattle to the Grassmarket from the East : Wiki Commons

The final remains of a range of buildings dating back to the 16th Century have been discovered by archaeologists digging in Edinburgh’s Cowgate.

Archaeologists digging in the historic Edinburgh street have discovered a series of buildings dating back to the 16th century and artefacts ranging from combs to a primitive board game.


The last phase of excavation of the site, which is being developed by SoCo, has revealed the street frontages of the 16th-century buildings previously discovered.

Experts have already described the finds as among the most important ever uncovered in the Capital.

The latest findings are the final phase of architectural work which has been going on for the past ten years, following a major fire which raged for more than 52 hours and destroyed 13 buildings in 2002.

City council Archaeology Officer John Lawson said: “This part of the dig was the last piece of the puzzle – when all the discoveries are put together, I think it will be one of the most important archeological finds in Edinburgh. We’re getting evidence of 500 years of Edinburgh history, covering everything from early mansions of the rich to the slums of the 19th century.”

The excavation is also believed to have uncovered the work of the famed Scottish architectural family the Adams.

Among the finds are street frontage walls of 16/17th-century houses and later tenements, artefacts including pottery, bone comb and possible fragment of a gaming board and a complex of stone-lined drains.

Mr Lawson added: “The exciting thing about this latest stage of the excavations is we are getting the frontages of the buildings themselves, which, usually, we don’t get.

“That’s really important because it allows people to map accurately the changes that took place in the Cowgate.

“We’re finding quite a lot of artefacts and we have a lot of evidence for the domestic use of the street, from the 16th century right through to the early 19th-century slums. It all encapsulates Edinburgh in microcosm. Hopefully, this will tell the story of the Capital.”

The archaeological findings, which it is hoped will remain with the council as part of the museums collection, will now undergo analysis.

Contributing Source : Edinburgh Museum

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