ARCHAEOLOGISTS yesterday began the latest stage in a hunt for traces of a long-lost mediaeval monastery in the north-east.
The experts want to excavate the home of the Book of Deer, which was written by Scottish monks around the 10th century.
The gospel book contains the earliest examples of Gaelic literature and is thought to be the oldest-surviving manuscript in Scotland.
It is now on display at Cambridge University and is held up as a highly-significant volume which gives an insight into pre-Norman culture and society in the area previously known as Pictland.
The book contains seven handwritten passages of Gaelic text, written in the margins.
These describe – among other things – how a monastery was founded by St Columba and St Drostan at Deer, near Mintlaw.
It has never been established exactly how big the building was, how long it survived or how many monks lived there.
Archaeologists from Glasgow University were yesterday drafted in by the friends of the Book of Deer group to try to trace any remains of the building.
Their meticulous search, which has so far failed to yield any clues, is taking place inside the old church at Old Deer and in the church graveyard.
Yesterday’s archaeological work coincided with a visit to Old Deer by local schoolchildren who were given a chance to take part in their own digs.
Local historian Derek Jennings teamed up with Aberdeen archeologist Alison Cameron for the event.
Mr Jennings said the pupils – from primary schools at New Pitsligo, Stuartfield, Pitfour and Fetterangus – had a “fantastic” day.
“We gave them their own mud boxes to excavate which had pottery and other artefacts hidden in them,” he said.
“After that we showed them a video on the Book of Deer and the monastery.
“It really was a very educational yet hands-on day for them.”
The Glasgow archeologists will continue their efforts to locate the site of the monastery at Old Deer until tomorrow.