Search for first monastery on Holy Island announced

The location of trench one with Lindisfarne Castle in the background.
The location of trench one with Lindisfarne Castle in the background.

A major excavation which aims to discover the location of the first monastery on Holy Island is to take place this summer.

The dig was unveiled by DigVentures, the crowd-funding archaeological social enterprise, today.

A walkover survey taking place on Holy Island.

A walkover survey taking place on Holy Island.

It follows new research by Dr David Petts, lecturer in the archaeology of northern England at Durham University, and a world-leading expert on the archaeology of Lindisfarne, who has carried out extensive geophysical surveys with funding from National Geographic.

The Anglo-Saxon monastery, founded in 635 AD by King Oswald, is of great importance in the history of Christianity in the UK and was the site where the world-famous Lindisfarne Gospels were created.

In 793, it fell victim to the Viking’s first major raid on the British Isles. The location of the monastery was subsequently lost, and though small artefacts including Anglo-Saxon stone carvings have occasionally surfaced, archaeologists have been unable to unearth its remains.

Dr Petts and DigVentures will now carry out excavations to ‘ground-truth’ the locations to determine whether there is anything left below the surface, and if there is, identify what is left of one the most iconic sites in British and early Christian history.

A major excavation is taking place to discover the location of the first monastery on Holy Island.

A major excavation is taking place to discover the location of the first monastery on Holy Island.

Dr Petts said: “The centrality of the first Lindisfarne monastery in the history of early medieval Britain and its – until now – elusive nature gives this dig the potential to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the UK in recent years.

“Working with DigVentures allows us to open up the process of research and scientific excavation – it’s the future of discovering the past.”

The project has been launched for crowd-funding on the DigVentures website, allowing anyone interested to pledge support.

In return for backing the project, supporters become part of the dig team – through exclusive digital access to project data, and receiving the training and tools needed to participate in the expedition this summer, which takes place from June 13 to 26.

DigVentures was launched in 2012 by three archaeologists, allowing users around the world to fund and participate in archaeological excavation experiences around the UK and abroad, as well as follow the findings remotely through DigVentures’ proprietary web app, Digital Dig Team.

The software allows every object and discovery to be documented and uploaded live, making the data instantly accessible from anywhere in the world online.

Brendan Wilkins, co-founder and projects director at DigVentures, said: “We’re passionate about opening up the experience of discovery to a wider group than might normally be part of an archaeological dig.

“As well as the thrill of the dig on site this summer, supporters will be able to follow each discovery as they happen through the Digital Dig Team Portal.”