With 2017 being the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology we had to take a look into the archaeology here at Culloden. Something that many people may not know about Culloden is that it was one of the first battlefields in Scotland to be subject to archaeological investigation making it an intriguing subject.
As part of the Culloden Battlefield Memorial Project, work first began at the site in 2000 and has included topographic, geophysical and metal detector surveys.
These surveys have allowed us to discover and learn more about the battle and what exactly happened on that fateful day in April 1746. The fact that objects and details discovered hundreds of year after an event can help inform our knowledge is a fantastic and intriguing subject.
Unsurprisingly, metal detector surveys managed to uncover a lot of items from the field including musket balls, mortar fragments, buckles and buttons many of which we have on display in our exhibition. The interesting aspect of these finds though was their location. When mapped all of these individual finds suggested the battle took place over a larger piece of land than originally anticipated.
The intensity of finds also showed the majority of hand-to-hand fighting took place further south than expected. The presence of broken musket pieces indicated the weapons were damaged by fire at close range or smashed off by a broadsword. The lost buttons and buckles most likely removed in struggles which offers an insight into the extreme battle conditions on the moor. These lost items open up a harrowing picture of Culloden and bring the battle into a harsh reality with objects you can truly connect with.
Close to the area of close quarter fighting were fragments of mortar bombs which would have been fired into the charging Jacobites to stop their dreaded attack. The power of these bombs could take out up to twenty men at a time, making it remarkable the Jacobites made it to the Government front line at all. The position of the mortar fragments, so close to the Government front line, also opens up the possibility that Government men could have been killed as the shells were rather unpredictable and broke apart as the powder inside ignited.
As well as gathering information on the fighting and tactics of the armies surveys also helped uncover a couple of more personal items. A silver coin was found dating from 1752, after the battle. The coin is a silver thaler from the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin which was one of the German Baltic states. The presence of the coin suggests the possibility that it was dropped by a soldier who had served time in the continent. They could even have been based at Fort George and travelled to the battlefield to visit the graves of some of their fallen comrades. Also found was a small pewter cross. This discovery near Leanach Cottage is a beautiful pendant and you cant help but wonder who it belonged to and the story behind it. Was it given to a soldier by a loved one? Was it kept close for luck? The stories that could lie behind the objects make them all the more special and important to preserve.
We are lucky to have found so many items that have opened up new theories of the battle of Culloden and raised new questions and thoughts about the men on the field. If you want to find out more be sure to come along to our exhibition to see the finds for yourself. As always we hope you enjoyed this brief insight into the archaeology of the site and please comment, like, share and tweet.
All the best, K & D