• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Items dropped by English reveal site of Bannockburn battlefield

IT HAS been one of the most enduring mysteries of Scottish history, but archaeologists say they have uncovered the precise location of the Battle of Bannockburn.

BATTLE SCENE: Items uncovered during the project - led by the BBC and involving Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard - are still being analysed.
BATTLE SCENE: Items uncovered during the project - led by the BBC and involving Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard - are still being analysed.

While it remains a pivotal feature of Scotland's folklore, the exact site of the battle has been disputed for centuries.

Teams of researchers have often visited the area to determine where it actually took place, but any real evidence has been hard to come by.

However, a two-year investigation led by the BBC has unearthed new evidence which points to an area near the Bannock Burn known as the Carse of Balquhiderock as the battle site.

Historians believe the English army, led by King Edward II, camped on the Carse after the first day of the battle on June 23, 1314.

They argue that the Scots launched a daring raid at daybreak on June 24 - a tactical move by Robert the Bruce which ensured victory.

The researchers found a handful of medieval objects - a cross pendant, a heel spur and a stirrup - which are thought to have been discarded by retreating English calvary as they fled from their camp on the Carse.

The items were found on the southern bank of the Bannock Burn, at a spot where it is believed the English army had crossed the night before.

The historians argue the retreating calvary would have returned to this same site during the frenzy of their retreat.

Dr Tony Pollard, director of the Centre of Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University, was one of the lead researchers of the project.

In his view, the objects provide "tangible evidence" that the battle took place on the Carse.

He said: "Over the years and through working on this project, I have come to firmly believe that the battle on the second crucial day was on the Carse.

"Robert the Bruce would only have fought the battle if he had the tactical upper hand.

"And the way to get that was by going down onto the Carse -meeting his enemy rather than wait for them to come up the high ground where his army was initially located."

He added: "With these finds, Bannockburn becomes the earliest field battle site in Britain to have yielded relevant battle objects from a scientific investigation.

"They are consistent with the mayhem in the wake of the battle, dropped as the English forces fled the battle site on the Carse, crossing over the Bannock Burn at a point where they had previously crossed and knew they could potentially get over.

"As these guys were flying across the burn there is no doubt that this stuff is going to be falling off. It would have been absolute panic."

The Bannockburn project was led by the BBC in tandem with the University of Glasgow, the National Trust for Scotland, Guard Archaeology, and Historic Scotland.

The two-year project involved the use of metal detectors, computer mapping, historical research, re-enactments, geophysics and extensive archaeology. More than 3000 metal objects were found in the area, although only a handful were deemed to be relevant to the battle.

Many other objects that were uncovered are still being subjected to ongoing analysis.

The story of the entire project will be shown as a two-part documentary, The Quest for Bannockburn, which begins tonight on BBC Scotland.

It will be presented by the historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver, who also took part in the project. He said: "Never before has the Battle of Bannockburn been so thoroughly investigated.

"The place where Edward had decided to camp was at first glance strategically sound.

"There was water for the horses and the Bannockburn, and another stream, the Pelstream, surrounded him, providing protection from surprise attacks from behind.

"But ironically, the supposed safe ground where the English chose to camp, turned out to be their nemesis."

Additional Images: 
Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

237469