ARCHAELOGISTS believe they have discovered a long-lost monastery where Scotland's oldest manuscript is believed to have been written.

A ground-penetrating radar survey carried out at at Old Deer Church in Aberdeenshire has identified what appears to be the remains of a building underlying the east end of the standing church building.

The feature, currently being referred to as ‘Anomaly 8’, is about 33ft long, at least 23ft wide and may have several ‘rooms’.

It has been uncovered as part of the Book of Deer Project, which has been carrying out archaeological work for several years to help understand the early development of the village of Old Deer.

The project is named after one of Scotland’s oldest, and one of its most important, manuscripts.

The Book of Deer is a small Gospel Book now housed in Cambridge University Library. Before circa 1100 AD it was apparently in the possession of an early Pictish monastery at Old Deer, in the centre of the Buchan area, where it is thought to have been made.

No other trace of this monastery exists, but excavation works scheduled for September could finally offer a breakthrough in tracing the long-lost centre.

Archaeologist Bruce Mann, of Aberdeenshire Council, which funds the project, said: “At this stage the survey results are almost too good to be true, but if this really is an earlier church then it may be key in understanding the location of the lost monastery.”

The team will carry out exploratory excavations of two stone foundations in Aden Country Park, one of which is recorded as a possible Episcopal Meeting House site, from September 2-4, before digging trenches in Old Deer churchyard from September 5-9.