Historical Discovery: Monastery of Deer, Cradle of Scottish Gaelic, Found Near Ruins of Deer Abbey

Historical Discovery: Monastery of Deer, Cradle of Scottish Gaelic, Found Near Ruins of Deer Abbey

Reviving the Roots: Lost Monastery of Deer, Birthplace of Scottish Gaelic, Unearthed

In a significant archaeological breakthrough, experts have located the Monastery of Deer in Northeast Scotland, believed to be the spiritual home of Scottish Gaelic.

Dating back almost 1,000 years, the monastery was constructed as a place of worship for Cistercian monks. Notably, it is in this ancient building that the earliest known examples of Scottish Gaelic were written, inscribed in the margins of the 10th-century Book of Deer, a pocket gospel book.

Historical Discovery: Monastery of Deer, Cradle of Scottish Gaelic, Found Near Ruins of Deer Abbey

Situated just 262 feet (80 meters) from the ruins of Deer Abbey, close to the village of Mintlaw in Aberdeenshire, the remains of the Monastery of Deer have been unearthed by archaeologists.

The monastery, founded by William Comyn, Earl of Buchan, housed a community of Cistercian monks for centuries. It is believed to be the birthplace of the earliest surviving Scots Gaelic, as evidenced by Gaelic land grants inscribed in the margins of the Book of Deer.

Book of Deer’s Hidden Legacy: Archaeologists Locate Lost Monastery, Birthplace of Scots Gaelic

Leading the excavation, Alice Jaspars, a PhD researcher from the University of Southampton’s Archaeology department, emphasized the vital historical significance of the Book of Deer.

The handwritten entries, known as addenda, were likely added in the lost Monastery of Deer. These addenda, including references to the monastery’s foundation and land grants in Northeast Scotland, provide valuable insights into the history of Scottish Gaelic.

Resurrecting Scottish Gaelic: Monastery of Deer, Where Earliest Gaelic Texts Were Penned, Discovered

The Book of Deer, with an uncertain origin but believed to have been written between AD 850 and AD 1000, holds the historic addenda – the earliest written Scots Gaelic in the world.

While the exact construction date of the Monastery of Deer is unknown, it likely predates the adjacent Deer Abbey. The recent excavations, conducted in 2022, align with the time period of the Gaelic markings in the Book of Deer, confirming the existence of the lost monastery.

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