Scottish monastery found in Aberdeenshire after 1,000 years

Although Scottish Gaelic is currently at risk of extinction, scholars have identified it as the spiritual home of the written language.

Cistercian monks built the Monastery of Deer in Northeast Scotland over a millennium ago for devotion.

Gaelic Manuscripts in the Book of Deer

The building housed the earliest documented instances of Scottish Gaelic, transcribed in the margins of the Book of Deer, a pocket holy book, during the 10th century.

Even though the volume remains, the monastery has been lost; archaeologists assert they have located the structure’s remnants.

Excavations in Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, suggest they are 262 feet (80 meters) from the 1219 Deer Abbey.

Insights from Excavation and Research

The excavation was co-led by Alice Jaspars, a doctoral candidate in the University of Southampton’s Department of Archaeology.

Scholars believe the book’s addenda’, or handwritten entries, were added in the monastery.

“Ms. Jaspars stated that the Book of Deer is a crucial manuscript in Scottish history due to the fact that it contains the earliest extant Scots Gaelic.”

The precise location where the book was composed is unknown; however, it is hypothesized that the formerly-lost Monastery of Deer is where the Gaelic was appended to its margins.

The appendices mention the monastery’s establishment in conjunction with additional land grants in the northeastern region of Scotland.

“We believe our 2022 excavation found the vanished monastery where these were engraved.”

Uncertain about its precise origins, the Book of Deer is believed to have been composed between 850 and 1000 AD.

In the interim, monks at the monastery annotated the volume in the margins. The annotations constitute the earliest known written Scots Gaelic addenda, dating back to the late 11th or early 12th century.

The team is still determining the date of the Monastery of Deer’s construction. However, it is presumed to have been established before the neighboring Deer Abbey, which was completed in 1219.

Ms. Jaspars said, “The addenda suggest the monastery was occupied before this.”

Additionally, neither the time nor the reason why the monastery vanished can be determined.

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