In 1996, a person using a metal detector in a field beside Birnie Kirk, near Elgin, uncovered a handful of Roman coins. This find led archaeologists to the site, which turned out to be an Iron Age settlement.
Now National Museums Scotland has created a rich website based on the Birnie excavations, which provides an excellent resource for schools either on its own (with or without the downloadable resource pack) or to complement a visit to Elgin Museum, which holds the Birnie handling box.
As the resource pack explains, archaeologists uncovered an actual coin hoard on the Birnie site in 2000, and a second hoard in 2001. NMS archaeologists have returned to Birnie each summer, uncovering the remains of the settlement as well as Roman and Iron Age artefacts. The Roman artefacts and coin hoards were probably bribes or gifts from the Romans to local chieftains to keep the peace.
Since 2004, NMS has offered schools across Moray the chance to learn more about this amazing site. Pupils have visited the dig to see archaeology in action and have had the chance to discover their own finds through sifting the plough soil. One class even discovered a piece of Iron Age bracelet.
The new website is easy to navigate and is full of images of the treasures which have been uncovered, pictures of digs in progress, aerial views of the site and reconstructions of what the settlement would have looked like 2,000 years ago. Pupils can "explore" many of the habitations and work places that once occupied the site, including a blacksmith's and a roundhouse. They can even "build" their own virtual roundhouse with an interactive game that tests their knowledge.