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26 Oct 2021

Dig breaks new ground at Culloden

Grass and moorland with a blue sky above
An archaeological dig underway at Culloden Battlefield aims to shed more light on the 1746 battle.

Trust archaeologists are working with the Culloden Estate team to investigate several areas on the battlefield, which have never been excavated before.

A grid of small test pits will be opened up close to the access road into the Visitor Centre. This spot is close to where the left wing of the second line of Government troops lined up on that fateful day of 16 April 1746.

A woman in a hi-vis jacket is flanked by 2 men, standing in a field.
From left to right: Dr Daniel Rhodes (archaeologist), Catriona McIntosh (Culloden Estate Manager) and Derek Alexander (Head of Archaeology) on site at Culloden.

Culloden was the last battle of the ’45 rising, when Jacobites under Bonnie Prince Charlie were defeated by Government troops. The short but bloody battle, which lasted just 40 minutes, ended the Jacobite cause to restore a Stuart monarch to the throne.

In recent years, detailed archaeological investigations with metal detecting and geophysical survey work have taken place in the ‘Field of the English’, with trial trenching around Old Leanach Cottage, both close to the position of the Government first line.

This week’s fieldwork is further east on the site and will be looking for artefacts within the topsoil such as buckles, buttons, lead musket and pistol shot, perhaps dropped by Government troops or Jacobite shots that passed through or over the Redcoats in the front line. In addition, digital and drone photography will be used to produce 3D models of the Culloden monument and the clan gravestones along with other battlefield markers.

In particular, a model will be captured of the Cumberland Stone, an enormous boulder which lies at the far eastern end of the battlefield. The stone is where the Duke of Cumberland, leading the Government troops, is traditionally reported to have eaten a meal on the day of the battle.

Raoul Curtis Machin, Operations Manager at Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, said: ‘The team are really excited about the dig. They are passionate about the history of Culloden Battlefield and are always learning new things about this amazing site, which we can then share with the public who care so deeply about this important place.

‘We are at a fascinating stage where the fusion of archaeological and historical research will more accurately explain the events of 275 years ago, giving us a greater insight into a place which the National Trust for Scotland is proud to play its part in protecting. We are very grateful to all our supporters and everyone who’s contributed to Culloden’s Fighting Fund for making this work possible.’

The fund was set up to help protect areas of the battlefield not owned by the National Trust for Scotland from proposed developments.

Members of the public are invited to an Open Day at the dig site on Saturday 30 October from 10am–4pm – no booking is necessary.

Culloden’s Fighting Fund

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