The remains of a long-lost abbey founded in what is now south-east Scotland by a Northumbrian princess during the 7th century may have been discovered in an archaeological dig.

Excavations led by DigVentures have unearthed traces of a huge circular ditch at a site in Coldingham where the abbey, founded by Aebbe, an Anglo-Saxon princess born in 615AD who became a Christian convert, is believed to have stood.

Abbey remains2

The team excavates what may be Princess Aebbe's monastery. PICTURE: DigVentures/Aerial-Cam

The ditch is believed likely to be the 'vallum', a boundary surrounding the abbess' religious establishment. Together with the discovery of two other ditch sections, the ditch seems to encircle the remains of Coldingham Priory which was founded around 1100AD, meaning, according to Manda Forster of DigVentures, that the "heart of Aebbe’s monastery is somewhere underneath it".

The abbey was built in about 640AD and burned down shortly after Aebbe's death in 668. But it was rebuilt and remained until it was eventually finally destroyed by Viking raiders in 870AD

The archaeological team has found a huge pile of butchered animal bones just outside the line of the boundary ditch which have been dated to 660-860 AD. Small scale industry, such as metal-working or pottery production, would usually have taken place in such a location at an abbey.

The excavation was crowd-funded by DigVentures with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Friends of Coldingham Priory.

Aebbe was the daughter of a Northumbrian warlord who, following the killing of her father, fled to the kingdom of Dal Riata which stretched across parts of western Scotland and north-eastern Ireland. The family quickly converted to Christianity and when her brother Oswald, who would later found the famed Lindisfarne Abbey, returned to claim the family throne in Northumbria in 635, Aebbe joined him on a shared Christian mission.

Aebbe founded the monastery at the Coldingham site to help her brother maintain control over the northern-most parts of his kingdom and there educated Queen Aetheldreda who would later establish the monastery that became Ely Cathedral.