A MAPPING project in a 500-year old graveyard has uncovered a burial marker that stretches its history further back in time than previously expected.
Now local conservationists are hoping that the find will help cement “Hidden Gem” status as part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.
The Dundee Howff Conservation Group made the discovery when an archaeologist spotted a moss covered stone which appeared to be medieval, possibly dating to the 12th or 13th century.
Before the discovery the oldest monument in the cemetery has always been one erected in 1577.
Simon Goulding, chair of the Dundee Howff Conservation Group, said “When we set out to produce the most detailed map of the site since 1832, we never expected to make such a discovery.
“Our aim now is to complete an archaeological dig to ascertain its overall condition, have a conservation report compiled and get more votes before the end of July to make The Howff officially one of Scotland’s six spectacular hidden gems.”
Dr Oliver O’Grady of OJT Heritage, the archaeologist who discovered the stone, said “It’s been an absolute pleasure helping Simon and the Group’s dedicated team to map the Howff’s important collection of burial monuments. Finding the medieval stone was an amazing added surprise and is a significant discovery for Dundee’s archaeological heritage. It is a type known as a coped-stone and studying it should help uncover more about the Howff’s hidden medieval past, so I’m really pleased for the Group.
“There are only around 90 examples of this type of medieval burial stone from Scotland. Dundee has a small collection at St Mary’s church in the old town centre, but this is a first for the Howff. The stone is currently in a poor condition, so I am now supporting the Group to find the best way to conserve and present the stone for future generations to enjoy.”
The Howff is an A-listed site in the heart of Dundee. Home to some of the most ornate and detailed carvings in the United Kingdom and representing one of the most important collections of tombstones in the country, it charts around three centuries of life and death in Dundee.
Established in 1564 on the site of a medieval friary, it was used for meetings by the Dundee Incorporated Trades until 1776. The Greyfriars monastery that preceded the Howff was the burial place of Crawfords and the newly discovered medieval stone could be leftover memorial to a member of this powerful family. The overcrowded cemetery was closed in 1860 but three further burials were allowed with permission from the Secretary of State. The last was that of George Duncan MP for Dundee who was buried in 1878.
It is currently among 28 sites in the running to be crowned one of the half dozen of Scotland’s most spectacular hidden gems as part of Dig It! The year-long celebration of archaeology.
‘Scotland in Six – Hidden Gems’ voting is taking place on the Dig It! 2017 Facebook page, with one “like” equalling one vote.
Once votes have been tallied at the close of poll on July 31, Dig It! 2017 will help to celebrate the six winning sites with a different event at each during Scottish Archaeology Month in September. To vote for your favourites, visit the Dig It! 2017 Facebook page at Facebook.com/DigIt2017.