The Society was founded in 1780 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1783. Its purpose as defined in the charter is to ‘investigate both antiquities and natural and civil history in general, with the intention that the talents of mankind should be cultivated and that the study of natural and useful sciences should be promoted’.
As a charity, the Society relies mainly on members (known as Fellows) for its independence and most of its income. There are currently just under 3,000 Fellows around the world, with the majority residing in the UK. The Society promotes the understanding and conservation of Scotland’s historical and archaeological environment for the benefit of all. It publishes high-quality books and peer-reviewed papers, runs an annual programme of lectures and conferences, and administers research grants and prizes to support best practice and encourage new and innovative research into Scotland’s past.
The Society is an impartial voice for Scotland’s past, and acts as an advocate for the heritage sector, responding to government consultations and chairing meetings and symposia.
The Society also leads ScARF, the pioneering Scottish Archaeological Research Framework, and Dig It!, a national project celebrating and encouraging participation in Scottish archaeology.
The Society is a charitable organisation registered in Scotland (SC010440) and governed by a voluntary, elected Board of Trustees called Council.