Highland Regional ScARF: Highland archaeology from the earliest settlers through to the 20th century

by Susan Kruse (ARCH and NOSAS)

The ScARF (Scottish Archaeology Research Framework) project assessed what the current state of archaeology in Scotland was in the early 2010s, looking at what we know, where we have gaps in the knowledge and suggesting research areas for future work. This has been set up as a wiki-based publication on the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland website.

The Scottish Archaeology Strategy recommended that this be extended to focus on regions, recognising that many regional differences are not catered for in the national ScARF. For example, the situation in the Highlands during the medieval period is very different from the south. ARCH is leading a 3 year project looking at Highland archaeology from the earliest settlers through to the 20th century, with funding from Historic Environment Scotland and support from Highland Council.

The SCARF symposium in Inverness, 2018

The focus is fairly simple but ambitious and exciting: assessing what the state of knowledge is at the moment, how we differ from national ScARF, what regional differences exist within the Highlands, and suggesting research areas for future work. At the end we will have a valuable snapshot of Highland archaeology, which can be compared to the national picture, and also added to. The structure will mirror that of national ScARF to allow comparisons.

We started with a symposium on 2nd / 3rd June 2018 at Council Headquarters in Inverness where an impressive lineup of speakers provided a brief overview of what is known at present and what we need to know. The programme is available from the Library, in the Highland Regional ScARF folder.

The SCARF symposium in Inverness, 2018

We are now starting the work to flesh out this picture and are actively inviting contributions, large and small. Our first year will be devoted to trying to get our data as full and accurate as possible. We are building on the Highland Historic Environment Record (HER), Highland Council’s database of all known heritage, which will in turn link to Scottish Canmore. Grace Woolmer has been appointed Project Officer, and is based at the Council. She has been investigating various sources and is adding and revising records in the HER.

Can you help?

The aim to be as inclusive as possible, drawing in work and thoughts from council archaeologists, academics, museums, community groups, educational groups like the U3A and WEA, commercial units and individuals.

Is there a topic, site or find which holds special interest to you or a group you are part of? We’re looking for case studies, dissertations, research and photographs. So if you have any research to contribute, ideas of areas to explore, or can let us know of work we should know about, do get in touch with Susan or Grace. ARCH’s previous project, Community Timeline, showed how much information and research local communities can contribute.

A cover sheet for larger contributions is available, as are an example cover sheet and case study for Feats of Clay: Bronze Age Metalworking around the Moray Firth, and an example cover sheet for Tomatin ROC Post Photos (all also available from the Library on the ARCH website). Corrections or additions to the HER are welcome too.

Museums and Finds

Bronze Age arrowheads from different parts of the Highlands.

One of the areas we know we need more information about is on Highland finds. Often these are the only indiction of activity in the past at certain locations. A questionnaire for museums is being circulated and is also available from the Library on the website. We want to know what objects each museum feels are important. We also are asking for details on a number of provenanced key types of objects so that we can create distribution maps. This is a big task for our local museums, and there are opportunities to help local museums gather this information. Contact us if you are interested. We are also waiting for data about Highland objects in the National Museums of Scotland and the Treasure Trove system.

At the end of three years, the Highland Regional ScARF will be available from the National ScARF website. It promises to be an essential overview of Highland archaeology from earliest times to the present. Do help if you can.

Susan Kruse info@archhighland.org.uk
Grace Woolmer grace.woolmer@highland.gov.uk

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