Archaeologists unearth first Scots capital in Argyll

Published: 8 May 2001

Startling evidence from archaeological investigations on one of Scotland's most important historic sites is revealed in a new book co-authored by University archaeologist, Ewan Campbell.

Book launch: Wednesday 9 May 2001

Archaeologists unearth first Scots capital in Argyll

Sophistication of early Scottish kingdom revealed in new book

The results of archaeological investigations on one of Scotland's most important historic sites will be launched at Edinburgh Castle on Wednesday. In their book, 'Dunadd; an early Dalriadic capital', Alan Lane and Ewan Campbell reveal startling evidence of the sophistication of the early Scottish kingdom, leading to a revision of ideas about the origins of Scottish identity. The Dunadd fort in Argyll was the first capital of the Scots in the 6th to 9th centuries AD and the site of inauguration of their kings.

Speaking of the findings, archaeologist, Dr Ewan Campbell, said: "Although we may think of early western Scotland as being peripheral and isolated, the archaeological evidence shows that this was not the case. Sea links and navy of the early Scots enabled them to be closely involved in developments in Europe and their economy was at least as advanced as in England at this time."

Some of the main research findings were:

  • The kings at Dunadd had luxurious tastes, importing wine, herbs such as dill and coriander, and costly purple dyestuffs from western France. There were even goods from the Mediterranean, including yellow pigments for decorating illustrated manuscripts, and a glass tessera from a church mosaic in Italy or Constantinople.
  • The fort was a centre for jewellery production, where highly decorated brooches and pins were made using gold, silver and glass. For the first time it has been shown that the large brooches such as the Hunterston Brooch (in the new Museum of Scotland) were made in Scotland as well as Ireland.
  • Dunadd was a centre where a new hybrid art style was developed which mixed elements of Anglo-Saxon, Pictish and Celtic styles to produce a new style which was used in the magnificent illustrated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells and the Celtic high crosses of Iona.

    The Scottish kingdom in western Scotland (known in Gaelic as D£l Riata) took over the Picts of eastern Scotland in the mid 9th century to form the unified Scotland which has existed to the present day.

    The authors will present an illustrated talk at the launch, to be held at Edinburgh Castle on Wednesday 9th May at 7pm. The event, sponsored by Historic Scotland and Oxbow Books, will be chaired by Dr David Breeze, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic Scotland. Tickets available from James Thin booksellers, 53-59 South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1YS, Scotland. Tel: 0131 6228232.

    Dunadd; an early Dalriadic capital, by Alan Lane & Ewan Campbell is published by Oxbow Books, Oxford £45 295pp, 28 colour plates , 236 illu

    Media Relations Office (

Review copies can be obtained from Claire Whittle, Oxbow Books, Park End Place, Oxford. Tel 01865 241249 email:

For further information contact
Alan Lane at 02920 220478,
Ewan Campbell at 0141 330 3626
or University Press Office, 0141 330 3535

First published: 8 May 2001

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