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Homecoming for 4000-year-old artefact

By Kyle Ritchie

A 4000-year-old artefact has returned to the Gamrie area where it was found nearly 40 years ago.

The Troup Beaker dates back to around 2150 to 2250 BC and was found at Chapelden Farm.

The artefact was the focus of a presentation by Neil Curtis, head of museums and special collections at Aberdeen University in the Gardenstown Community Hub.

Phil Lawson, secretary of the hub said: "Mr Curtis covered many fascinating aspects of the beaker’s background, a history which has become far more focused over the last few years in light of research from all across Europe.

"The style of the beaker dates it to a period in Buchan pre-history around 2150 to 2250 BC.

"The triangular designs on its side are similar to designs on gold jewelry from southern Ireland of the same period.

"The link does not end there for there is evidence that our local area was one of the earliest centres for metalwork in the British isles, and that there were strong links between Ireland where the metal ore was mined and Buchan where it was worked.

"The reason for the intact preservation of the beaker is because it was placed in a cist that contained the body and this cist was covered with a stone slab and then earth.

"In what Mr Curtis described as a very proper and formal approach to burial in the area, women were buried on the right side facing west and men were buried on their left side facing east."

The precision and regulation that the people had in relation to this ceremony may have been reflected again in the need for refinement of temperature for metal-working or potting as it is something which has to be well-judged to work properly.

Mr Curtis also talked about a group of Beakers at Boyndlie, and brought along a red standstone mould for a bronze axehead from Corsegight.

Research in Aberdeen had found that the white infill of the carved patterns on many of the beakers was made from burnt bone.

It is thought the red and brown of the clay and white inlay had meanings to the people who made them, linked to the white of the tin and red of the copper used to make bronze, to the moon and the sun on which recumbent stone circles are aligned, or even to the flesh and bones of the person buried with the pot.

During the question and answer session many of the audience participated in the discussion and shared their experiences since they had relatives who were there at the time of the discovery which took place on a particularly memorable day of thunder and lightning back in 1942 when a local farmer unearthed the cist while digging out aggregate for a a nearby farm track.

The following day after the talk, Mr Curtis visited Chapelden in the Tore of Troup and met local farmer, Jackie Turnbull, whose grandfather was the person who made the discovery.

The partially-ruined house at Chapelden is no longer inhabited but the farm track still exists. The archaeological site is at the top of a knoll.

Mr Lawson added: "It is barely discernible today except to the experienced eye. What is clear from the view from the site is the suitability of the spot for relatively safe and sustainable human habitation.

"A fast flowing stream flows through the bottom of a wooded glen with an ancient holy well close by and a steep defensible hill on the far side.The ground is arable.

"Although the glen is quiet today, during World War II it housed a couple of sawmills and a big house – all now demolished – and many people worked and lived there up until the late 1940s. It even had a road which small buses could use."

"Mr Turnbull’s recollections within living memory were interesting to Mr Curtis since, like the Beaker people’s world, it is another layer of human history which has largely vanished from the landscape."

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