1.4 Methodology

The previous excavation at this site in 1980-81 had uncovered part of the western end of what had been identified as the medieval Carmelite friary, one of several religious houses which existed in the burgh before the Reformation of 1560. That site was published in 1989 (Stones 1989). When an additional area immediately adjacent became the subject of a planning application in 1994, it was very obvious that it would also hold relatively undisturbed portions of the friary complex and that it should be excavated. Much of the background research and assessment applicable to the site was done in relation to the 1980-81 excavation and is not repeated here. The aim of the 1994 excavation was to uncover as much as possible of the friary structures and precincts and to confirm and advance the interpretations made in the earlier context. There was no need for preliminary field evaluation in this case, but prior knowledge of the site and its potential yield allowed excellent preparations to be made, including the appointment of an osteoarchaeologist to ensure best possible recording, removal and study of the expected large quantities of human remains. The project design included excavation of all features, but the substantial stone walls of the church were left intact and carefully covered up following the excavation. After construction of the flatted complex which still occupies the site today, the outline of the church walls was marked on the surface of the car park beneath which they lie (Photo 0123).

0123 Outline of friary marked in the car park

Since the publication of the 1980-81 excavation in 1989, a great deal of additional research has been undertaken into the history of Aberdeen, the Green area where the friary was situated and into the history of the Carmelite Order in Aberdeen and Scotland. The historical information included here, which informs the excavation results and contextualises the site in a broad sense, is extensive, but it is felt that it benefits the holistic interpretation of the friary within the topographic and chronological setting of Aberdeen and it has not been brought together for publication elsewhere.

The two excavations at this site also have a story to tell regarding the funding of Scottish archaeology. The 1980-81 excavation, its post-excavation work and publication were financed by the Scottish Development Department (Historic Buildings and Monuments), following a bid by Aberdeen City Council Archaeological Unit (Art Gallery and Museums), as was usual practice at that time. The 1994 excavation and most of the post-excavation work, however, was funded by the site developer. As developer-funded archaeology in Scotland was at that time in its infancy – the relevant planning guidance (NPPG5) only being published in 1994 – this site must have been one of the very first developer-funded excavations in the country. At that incipient stage in the growth of commercial and contract archaeology, there was no question that the work should be undertaken by the City Council's archaeology team, which had led the earlier explorations of the site.


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