Historic Assynt’s Hidden Lives Project
Historic Assynt’s involvement in the national initiative, Scotland’s Rural Past, together with its preliminary work concerning the stability of the Broch at Clachtoll, highlighted how little of Assynt’s archaeology is either known or has been properly studied and investigated.
The Hidden Lives Project was developed as a first step towards remedying that situation by conducting an accurate survey of sites close to the main road network, and at the same time offering a series of seminars, workshops and training in survey techniques for local volunteers.
Funding for the scheme was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Highland Leader, together with a small grant from the Ward Discretionary Budget. AOC Archaeology was awarded the contract, and Robin Noble was appointed Project Officer.
The survey was conducted over the winter of 2009/2010 and the appalling weather resulted in various delays and rescheduling, as well as damping the enthusiasm of some potential volunteers. Nevertheless the AOC team, with a small core of hardy locals and NOSAS (North of Scotland Archaeological Society) volunteers kept going through rain, wind, ice and snow, recording 220 sites across the parish in the first phase of surveying in November 2009 and following this up with more focussed work in February 2010. The sites recorded in Phase 1 were of every period from the Neolithic to the 20th century and for Phase 2 some 70 sites in four discreet areas were chosen for more detailed recording. These areas were;
- Loch Borralan where there is a concentration of Neolithic sites
- Lyne-Ledbeg where more Neolithic remains are encountered amidst Early Modern and more recent settlement remains
- Glenleraig and Ardvar with Iron Age and Early Modern remains juxtaposed
- Kirkton with Neolithic, Bronze Age, Medieval and Early Modern remains.
In the event severe weather conditions limited access to Ardvar and further work was conducted at Knockan instead.
The survey work has resulted in an extensive archive, which is now available through the Highland HER and in the national database held by RCAHMS (Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland).
The results are also recorded in a full report (Assynt’s Hidden lives; An Archaeological Survey of the Parish - Graeme Cavers & Gemma Hudson) and a popular archaeological guide (A Rock and A Hard Place: A Guide to the Archaeology of Assynt’s Hidden Lives - Robin Noble). Work with local schools has resulted in the production of a Teachers Pack and the project findings have been promoted locally through a travelling exhibition and a series of illustrated talks and guided walks.
Historic Assynt plans to build on Hidden Lives and some of its other projects to develop schemes for the further investigation and consolidation of Assynt’s built heritage. Future projects will continue to offer local opportunities for involvement, education and training and simultaneously promote Assynt’s archaeology among the area’s many visitors.