Gaelic word of the week blog – Archaeology – Àrc-eòlas #gaelic

Each week we publish the text of our Gaelic Word of the Week podcast here with added facts, figures and photos for Gaelic learners who want to learn a little about the language and about the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. This week our word is archaeology – arc-èolas.

The 17th of July to 1st August is the festival of British Archaeology so today we’re going to look at archaeology and it’s connection to the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba.

The Gaelic for archaeology is arc-eòlas.

The word in eòlas arc-èolas means “knowledge” and can also be found in the name of many other subjects such as bith-eòlas – “life knowledge” or biology, sòisèolas – sociology and many more.

So what does arc-eòlas have to do with the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba?

Care of historic monuments is a devolved power which the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba – is responsible for.

Our connection is not just about what is discussed in the Parliament building, however, but also in what is to be found below it!

The area has an important history – eachdraidh – which is of interest to archaeology – arc-eòlas.

Buildlng at the Scottish Parliament From Wikimedia Commmons by Finlay MacWilliam

The Parliament building is situated in a very ancient area of Edinburgh – Dùn Èideann, right next door to Holyrood Abbey which was established by King David 1 in 1128.

Several royal visitors lodged at the abbey’s guest house which later became a royal palace in 1501 during the reign of James IV – the last Scottish king known to speak Gaelic.

Today this is still a royal residence and is known as the Palace of Holyrood House which is also our next door neighbour!

Holyrood is an interesting name – rood is an old English word for cross. The word cross was borrowed into English from Latin via Gaelic from speaking churchmen, crois being the Gaelic for cross.

The Canongate in Edinburgh was a prosperous area by the 16th century but later fell into decline in the 1700s and the development of the New Town. The area where the Parliament is situated today became tenements housing and then in 1781 became a brewery and remained so until the 1950s. The Queensberry House part of the building was initially a mansion house before becoming a hospital.

Due to the rich history – eachdraidh – of the site, some archaeological investigation – rannsachadh arc-eòlais – was done in 1998 before building work on our new Parliament commenced. The investigations confirmed the survival of deep soils dating back to the medieval era on part of the site. They found indications of prehistoric human activities as well as a great amount of information about the use of the land in all the periods already mentioned.

Interestingly, one of the many interesting findings of archaeologists – àrc-eòlaichean was that during the later medieval and post-medieval periods most of the site was decorative gardens. This tradition continues today with the Parliament’s garden which you can see from our Garden Lobby.

You can read the very detailed archaeological report on the site by clicking on this link:…iew/2450/2430

And if you speak Gaelic or are learning Gaelic and want to learn more about archaeology in Gaelic, you may also be interested in the DigIt! – Discover Scotland’s story website which contains a variety of blog posts in Gaelic, Scots and English about archaeology written in very accessible language.

This week’s Gaelic WoW is archaeology: arc-eòlas.

Alasdair MacCaluim

Gaelic Development Officer