Scotland History, Uncategorized

Abandoned medieval village uncovered by roadworks off the A14 near Cambridge

Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int LLC
Clan Carruthers Int LLC


Promptus Et Fidelis


Abandoned medieval village uncovered by roadworks off the A14 near Cambridge


A skeleton found at the site.jpg

A skeleton found at the site


An abandoned Medieval village has been found during roadworks near the A14.

Construction workers drafted in 250 archaeologists to help them investigate anything they might find during the £1.5bn scheme to improve a 21-mile section of road between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

The area being investigated covers 350 hectares – equivalent to around 800 five-a-side football pitches.

They have found a village abandoned in the 12th century, with the remains of 12 medieval buildings covering an area of six hectares.

The earlier remains of up to 40 Anglo Saxon timber buildings are also identifiable, with alleys winding between houses, workshops and agricultural buildings.

It is thought to have been occupied from the eighth to the 12th centuries.

The medieval village being excavated near Houghton

The medieval village being excavated near Houghton


Workers also found a Roman brooch shaped like a chicken

Workers also found a Roman brooch shaped like a chicken


A Neolithic henge monument found during the A14 upgrade projec

A Neolithic henge monument found during the A14 upgrade project


Various Roman artefects have also been found at the site, as well as prehistoric henge monuments.

Archaeologists led by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) Headland Infrastructure have dug more than 40 separate excavation areas, and expect to complete work by summer.

They believe their finds have enabled a better understanding of how the Cambridgeshire landscape was used over 6,000 years of occupation.

Their other discoveries include a Roman trade distribution centre which would have played a pivotal part in the region’s supply chain, and was linked to the surrounding farmsteads by trackways as well as the main Roman road between Cambridge and Godmanchester.

The discovery of artefacts at the site relating to the Roman army indicates that this trade was controlled centrally.

Archaeologists record finds from the site

Archaeologists record finds from the site

The excavation seen from the air

The excavation seen from the air

An anglo-saxon bone flute

A bone flute.  Carbon dating can be done at the site, and DNA samples are taken and sent out for analysis.

He inspects an iron age timber ladder

He inspects an iron age timber ladder

A Roman jet Medusa head found at the site

A Roman jet Medusa head found at the site


Three prehistoric henge monuments, which are likely to have been a place for ceremonial gatherings and measure up to 50 metres (164 ft) in diameter, have also been found.

Other monuments include 40 Roman industrial pottery kilns along Roman roads, seven prehistoric burial grounds, eight Iron Age to Roman supply farms, two post-medieval brick kilns and three Saxon settlement sites.

Artefacts have also been uncovered, including a rare Anglo Saxon bone flute from the fifth to ninth century, an ornate Roman jet pendant depicting the head of Medusa, and a Middle Iron Age timber ladder.

Dr Steve Sherlock, archaeology lead for the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon project for Highways England, said: ‘The archive of finds, samples and original records will be stored so that the data and knowledge is preserved for this and future generations.’

Kasia Gdaniec, senior archaeologist for Cambridgeshire County Council, said the archaeology programme had exposed an ‘astonishing array of remarkable new sites that reveal the previously unknown character of ancient settlement across the western Cambridgeshire clay plain’.


Thank you Doug Andrews for sending this to us.

Clan Carruthers Int LLC

Scotland History, Uncategorized

Women of the Border Reivers

Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int LLC
Clan Carruthers Int LLC


Hidden History – Women of the Border Reivers

by Blythe Gifford

Most of us nod wisely and cluck our tongues about the paucity of information about women in history  Unknown, unsung, unreported, it is always a challenge to discover enough about how real women lived to spin an authentic historical tale.

But I had no idea how true this was until I started writing in the era of the Border Reivers.

For those who don’t know, the Reivers (pronounced Reevers) were basically raiders on both sides of the Scottish/English border.  Loyal to family above king, these folks had feuds that rivaled the famous Hatfields and McCoys  They were beyond the law of either government, and usually even beyond the reach of the special Border Laws that were developed in a joint English-Scottish effort to bring order from the chaos.  For nearly 300 years (roughly 1300-1600), they “made a living” by stealing from others, or, alternately, by collecting “blackmail” from those who wanted to be left alone.

My new historical romance trilogy features the three siblings of a reiving family I call the Brunson clan.  I started to research the lives of women of the era, but information was so scarce about this macho society that I could barely find any information about how they dressed, though there are pictures aplenty of what the men donned to ride a raid.

The first story a researcher always finds about the women of the Borders is this:  When the larder ran low, the woman of the house would bring her man a set of spurs instead of supper.  That meant it was time for him to go “riding” again.

The second thing I found was a prevailing opinion (from the English side of the border, to be fair) that Scottish women were “comely,” but “not distinguished by their chastity.”

Hints, but not much to go on.

Beyond stealing sheep and cattle, there was arson and even murder aplenty on the Borders, and many women were left widowed and orphaned.  Later written histories claim that even women and children were not safe from atrocities during these raids.  Yet there’s a tension in the stories of this culture between the ones that claim Reivers honored women and preferred not to kill and the ones that label them vicious and cruel and ruthless.

Modern litanies of the Reivers’ sins typically list rape among them.  In actual historic accounts, however, I was unable to find a specific report of one in the history.  (I am not alone in this.  The book Government, religion, and society in northern England, 1000-1700 mentions the “notable absence” of rape from the list of transgressions.)

Is this because it did not happen, or because women did not make it public?  The answer, as so much of women’s history, is hidden.  Yet there was a law passed by the Scottish Parliament in 1525 which gave the king’s officers the right to punish “particular faults and crimes that occur.”  On the list was “ravishing of women.”  A tantalizing clue.

Yet amidst the harsh reality, I discovered softness and beauty.  This was not a society that had leisure for art and culture, but the Border Ballads, rediscovered and popularized by Sir Walter Scott at the turn of the 19th century, remain hauntingly beautiful today.

In his book FOLK SONG IN ENGLAND, A.L. Lloyd writes of the border dwellers that “they prized a poem almost as much as plunder.”  The narrative songs they created tell rip-roaring stories of war and love, like the one that begins:

My love he built me a bonny bower,

And clad it a’ wi’ lilye flour;

A brawer bower ye ne’er did see,

Than my true love he built for me.

Alas, the title of the ballad is “The Lament of the Border Widow,” and the final verse goes like this:

Nae living man I’ll love again,

Since that my lovely knight is slain;

Wi’ ae lock of his yellow hair

I’ll chain my heart for evermair.

So where is a romance writer to find a happy ending?  Well, it turns out that love conquered all during the era of the Reivers, just as it always has.

It seems that there was a law forbidding marriage across the border (upon penalty of death) unless one had special permission.  This was intended to make it easier for the kings to keep control of the population by preventing marriage/family ties that might dilute national allegiance.

Despite the best efforts, not only did such marriages occur, they were a near epidemic, to the extent that in some regions, the list of those that did NOT have cross border marriages was shorter than the list of those that did.

So in the end, I had a head full of ideas for my trilogy, confident that no matter how difficult the existence or strict the prohibition, men and women fall in love and get married.  There was all the validation I needed to write Border Reiver romance.

What do you most wonder about the lives of women in history?  Leave a comment and one lucky person will win a copy of RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, first book in The Brunson Clan trilogy.  Here’s a brief description:


Once part of a powerful border clan, John has not set sight on the Brunson stone tower in years. With failure never an option, he must persuade his family to honour the King’s call for peace.

To succeed, John knows winning over the daughter of an allied family, Cate Gilnock, holds the key. But this intriguing beauty is beyond the powers of flattery and seduction. Instead, the painful vulnerability hidden behind her spirited eyes calls out to John as he is inexorably drawn back into the warrior Brunson clan…


NEWCOA Wider Red Band


Carruthers history, Scotland History, Uncategorized

Lady Devorgilla in Stone

Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int LLC
Clan Carruthers Int LLC



At Whitesands along the River Night which runs through Dumfries.


Walking on from the kinetic hangings and the curved railings beyond the Devorgilla Bridge, we come to Matt Baker’s granite sculpture of Lady Devorgilla. Many people must walk past without realizing a sculpture is on the river side of the wall beside a flight of steps. She is set into the sandstone wall, looking across the river. The figure was inspired by Lady Devorgilla Baillol who reputedly had the first wooden bridge across the bridge built in the thirteenth century.


She was the daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway and married John Balliol when she was only 13. In her own right she was a wealthy and powerful woman. Although her husband founded Balliol College, Oxford (for poor scholars) she made a permanent endowment to the college to secure its future. She also founded Greyfriars Monastery in Dumfries. On the death of her husband she established a Cistercian Monastery at New Abbey, a few miles from Dumfries. She had his heart embalmed and carried it with her in an ivory casket. When she died she was buried at the abbey church she had founded, with her husband’s heart beside her. Is this a romantic tale, or is carrying your dead husband’s heart around a bit weird? The monks clearly decided on romantic, calling the abbey Dulce Cor, meaning sweet heart.


Now, carved in granite from salvaged harbour kerbs, Devorgilla stands gazing serenely across the caul. When the River Nith floods, which it does frequently, the sculpture is partially submerged and becomes part of the river in a powerful way.


Originally, a second part of Matt Baker’s installation was situated on the other side of the river. It was a translucent etching of a woman about to cross the river, laminated in glass with an oak frame. She was there for nine years before being destroyed, in 2007, by spring floods.



Carruthers – Gotland – Ashman

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Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society International


Carruthers – Gotland – Ashman


In the last two blogs, it was mentioned that all the Carruthers ancestors, no matter how it is spelled, have the same 32-36 DNA markers, and our earliest location is Gotland.  The same DNA takes us to 500 BC on the island of Gotland.

Gotland was in a perfect position to be a destination that people traveling would stop at. Its position in the middle of the Baltic Sea made the island a natural hub for contact between West and East. However, being an island also meant developing along different paths, creating special traditions and legends.
An island off the southwestern coast of what is now Sweden.



Traces of around 60 coastal settlements have been found on Gotland, says Dan Carlsson. Most were small fishing hamlets with jetties apportioned among nearby farms. Fröjel, which was active  up until 1150, was one of about 10 settlements that grew into small towns, and Carlsson believes that it became a key player in a far-reaching trade network. “Gotlanders were middlemen,” he says, “and they benefited greatly from the exchange of goods from the West to the East, and the other way around.”

There is no doubt that Gotland served as a central meeting point in the Baltic Sea. Commerce took place among people from widespread areas, both near and far. Objects found in excavations include artefacts from Continental Europe and the Arabian caliphate. Since they found artifacts from the Arabian countries, does that mean we raped and pillaged our way down there.  OH, you bet we did!  And we were damn good at it too!

Most astounding of all are the great silver treasures, which have become well-known throughout the world. The huge number of” silver hordes” finds bears witness to wealth found nowhere else at our latitude. They have found in excess of 180,000 coins on Gotland, in comparison to 80,000 coins in all of Sweden and Norway.  The coins show the extent of Gotland’s contact with the outside world and the trade that helped make the island so rich. Ornamental metalwork is often found in burials but also comes from hoards and bog finds. Our ancestors were great “metal spinners”.  Findinsg in iron, copper, and silver are numerous. Besides the coins, the gold is found in the form of thin, disk-shaped pendants stamped on one side (known as bracteates), sword pommels, scabbard mounts, and large, extravagantly decorated collars with applied decoration.

bronzenechlace     vikingsilver

Fishing and hunting of wild animals, including moose, bear, and reindeer as well as small mammals and birds, remained important throughout the Late Iron Age, along with agriculture based on raising cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats and growing barley, rye, oats, and flax on arable land as the climate allowed.  Gotland was the most agriculturally rich areas. In the far north, there were reindeer herders . The hunters, fisherman and farmers were the upper class on Gotland, during the iron age.

Characteristic house types were long rectangular houses like those known at Vallhagar near the west coast of Gotland, dating to the sixth century, apparently similar to later Viking Age halls of indigenous longhouse type that are described in saga literature.


Earlier than that in the Iron Age,  hillforts dot the landscape of the west coast of Gotland.   In coastal areas, they seem to provide refuge from sea attacks and protect waterways. Stone forts were built on the Baltic Islands, including Torsburgen on Gotlands.


The huge number of” silver hordes” finds bears witness to wealth found nowhere else at our latitude. They have found in excess of 180,000 coins on Gotland, in comparison to 80,000 coins in all of Sweden and Norway.  The coins show the extent of Gotland’s contact with the outside world and the trade that helped make the island so rich.Hoards of Roman solidi (gold coins) deposited on the Baltic Islands from the late fifth century through the mid-sixth century also reflect unrest in this period.


Because of the fact that our ancestors were such master of metal spinning, the helmets they made were of course the best.  They had the only metal helmet made with a protector for their nose.   Roman had helmets, but they did not know how to have any protecting over their face.  gotlandhelmet


Burials include both inhumation and cremation during the Late Iron Age, with single mounds gradually replacing mound groups yet with great variation in grave types. At 500 AD ornamental gold and bronze fragments were discovered and shown to be damaged by a cremation fire.  The ancestors were quite ritualistic.   They held elaborate funerals.


Many families had their own graveyard, and they would build the outline of a ship around were all their immediate family was buried.  These were called barrow graves.

gotlandbayeux warships

Our Ancestors were fierce shipbuilders. Because of their metal spinning craftsmanship, they could create the tools needed.   They made ships mainly out of Ash Trees, which became a very sacred tree to them. When a new life was created or one had left this world they always planted an ash tree.   When people from other regions saw the boats, they would put their order in, and thus it was quite profitable for the Ancestors.  This is where they made the most of their money.   Boats and ships were a major importance in everyday life and they were a symbol of wealth and power.  Our ancestors were advanced in wood carpentry and it is mentioned often that these ships were lighter, slimmer, stronger and faster.

Because of the importance and sacredness of the Ash Tree, used for personal rituals and  for making these excellent ships, we were referred to as Ashman.  That was our name on Gotland, before coming to Scotland.  You will still see that name, mainly in Europe and what is interesting to me that many of the people who write books about ships, shipping, and in the shipping business are Ashman.


Before we were Carruthers, we were Ashman!

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