The Stirling Palace project was intended to extend existing research within an innovative and practical fieldwork and research framework. The results of this work were also intended to advance a new level of understanding of the sequence of building and alteration within the palace.
The investigation of the palace in particular sought to detail exactly how the complex was adapted to meet each new role over the centuries on a room-by-room, range-by-range and floor-by-floor basis. Excavation was targeted to show how alterations to the palace affected previous structures, either by inclusion within the new plan, truncation, or total destruction. The combined research then sought to place the site within its British and European context, and trace its transition from royal household to officer’s mess.
The achievement of these aims was dictated by three basic factors:
- The extent of the available evidence.
- This applied both in terms of the sheer volume of material on the one hand, and its inevitably fragmentary nature on the other. These were features of all types of available evidence, whether documentary, survey based or the results of archaeological excavation.
- The management of the project.
- The work embraced significant elements of documentary research, standing building recording and formal excavation, often running concurrently. It became necessary to understand the complex interrelationships involved, and the effect that one piece of evidence could have on the others in real-time, while on site, so that intended work could be modified in order to account for any new findings that had come to light elsewhere.
- The need to integrate closely with an ongoing programme of clearance and refurbishment.
- The archaeological team was required to work both in advance of some aspects of the ongoing work and alongside others. This required careful planning and a great degree of flexibility - particularly in being able to record aspects of the palace in a non-linear manner, recording areas as and when they became accessible, rather than within a strict, more chronologically based sequence.
Individual rooms within the overall palace plan (as it appeared in 2003) defined the top level components of referenece - e.g. The King's Bedchamber was referred to as P04. Within each of these spaces, each elevation, floor and ceiling was then designated a reference number and recorded in terms of its specific, smaller, features - such as windows, fireplaces, etc. These intimate features formed the basic unit for description and stratigraphic association and analysis. The physical descriptions of the features were made on pro forma record sheets, with each identified archaeological feature being afforded a separate sheet. The use of pro forma record sheets helped achieve a consistency of detail - whether descriptive or interpretive - by systematically categorising the attributes of each individual feature (location, type, dimension etc.) Each recorded feature was described and illustrated by both line drawing and photography.
Within the form of feature number outlined above, it can be seen that every number implicitly reveals the location of that feature by combining the following variables:
SPACE : ELEVATION : NUMBER
Where SPACE was defined by the major room reference (e.g. P04), ELEVATION by a number in the range 1 - 6, where 1=North wall, 2=East wall, 3=South wall, 4=West wall, 5=Floor and 6=Ceiling, and NUMBER by any one of a sequence of unique numbers (within that elevation), starting at 001 and increasing incrementally.
So, for example, the feature number P04.4.012 is a feature number on the west (4) elevation of the King's Bedchamber (P04). Exactly what the number (012) relates to can be determined by searching the online database.