Dagger to Ward Off 'Magical Harm' Found on Lost Medieval Village Near Freeway

Traces of four medieval structures dating from the 14th to 17th centuries were discovered next to a highway near Bothwell in Scotland, where the Netherton Cross (a 10th century stone cross) once stood, following new research.

Among the objects found beneath the structures was a dagger described to have "talismanic qualities," which may have been used to protect a household from "magical harm," the research report said.

The excavation of the historic site, commissioned by Transport Scotland and its consultants as part of proposed improvement works for the M8, M73 and M74 motorways, revealed "significant volumes of late medieval / post-medieval pottery as well as copper coinage, clay tobacco pipes, and other domestic materials," the report said.

The site of the excavation "formed part of a medieval landscape with an early twelfth century motte and bailey located to the south and a fifteenth century collegiate church, believed to be the location of the earlier medieval church," the report described.

"Remarkably, these remains survived, literally on the edge of the existing hard shoulder of the M74, with some remains extending southwest underneath the road foundations," the report said.

Some of the cultural remains found beneath the rubble were medieval pottery, including Scottish white gritty ware and locally produced redwares, clay tobacco pipe pieces as well as animal bone and tooth fragments, according to the report.

Among the "exceptional" findings at the site was "a spindle whorl, a ceramic gaming piece, two coins, a whetstone, and an iron dagger possibly of prehistoric date," symbolizing different elements of everyday life, the report said.

Dr. Gemma Cruickshanks, from National Museums Scotland, said the form of the dagger discovered "is indistinguishable from Iron Age examples, indicating this simple dagger form had a very long history."

Dr. Natasha Ferguson, from GUARD Archaeology, a co-author of the report, said: "The special or talismanic qualities of this dagger as a protective object may have enhanced the ritual act to protect the household from worldly and magical harm.

"The deposition of these objects under the foundation level of one of the houses may have been intended to affirm this space as a place of safety for them and generations to come," she added.

The report noted there appeared to have been "a deliberate selection of objects" placed at the historic site.

"The practice of depositing 'special' objects in medieval and post-medieval buildings is well documented and was a ritual performed to protect the building and its inhabitants," the report explained.

The Netherton Cross was relocated in the early 20th century and erected outside Hamilton parish church where it stands today.

The landscape of the Netherton Cross has significantly evolved over the past 50 years following the construction of the M74 motorway, as well as the development of Strathclyde Country Park and Strathclyde Loch along its borders, the report said.

"These excavations have highlighted the potential of surviving archaeological remains, even in areas that appear at first glance to be overwhelmingly impacted by industrial expansion," the report added.

Newsweek has contacted the British Archaeological Association, Scottish History Society and National Museums Scotland for comment.

The M74 highway in Scotland in 2015.
A view of the M74 highway just south of Abingdon, seen in December 2015 in Lanark, Scotland. The remains of four medieval structures were discovered on the shoulder of the M74 highway. Mark Runnacles/Getty Images