Monday, March 29, 2004

Bannockburn Artefacts Debated

"The battle of Bannockburn was undoubtedly one of the most spectacular conflicts of the Scottish Wars of Independence (1291-1320). Although the struggle against the English was to continue for another 13 years, the Scottish victory secured the throne for Bruce.

Edward II gathered an army of 40,000 men to march north and fight for Stirling Castle, which was under siege by the Scots.

The army was an enormous one, even by medieval standards, and very well armed and supplied.

Following this army north was a huge train of equipment and supplies, which included weaponry, siege engines, food and wine.

Meanwhile, the Scots forces gathering in Stirling numbered only 13,000. Many feared the worse and the end of the Scottish struggle for independence.

The main battle took place on June 24, 1314. However, disorganisation in the superior English ranks was exploited by Robert the Bruce's tactical nous and courage of his soldiers.

The expected English victory turned into a rout and Edward II escaped to England by sea from Dunbar."

Until recently, this monumental struggle yielded only three sharp wooden stakes, long regarded as the only known artefacts recovered from the battlefield. They are said to have been among those planted in shallow, covered pits with the intention of impaling English cavalry horses and their riders and have been proudly displayed by The Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling since their discovery in 1923. But carbon-dating tests of the spikes carried out during the making of the BBC archaeological programme Two Men in a Trench has produced a shock: they are more than 8,000 years old. That means the 'stakes' were in existence around 7,300 years before Robert the Bruce’s 1314 rout of the army of King Edward II.

Rubbing salt into the wound, archaeologist Dr Tony Pollard claims the television investigation found the only genuine artefacts from the bloody, two-day battle - a pair of riding stirrups once worn by a medieval knight.