Lost settlements of Glencoe studied for first time

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Archaeologists are in Glencoe surveying the settlements inhabited during the 1692 massacre for the first time.

National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is keen to place the human story of the glen back into one of Scotland’s most visited landscapes.

Excavations have started at the former township of Achtriachtan with five structures surveyed so far.

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Archaeologists for NTS have also found areas likely used for cultivation with a number of artefacts recovered following the first excavation of its kind in the area.

Pieces of brown glazed pottery - possibly from a cup - have been found along with glass and a quern stone, which was used for milling.

A copper alloy coin, metalwork and tiny glass beads have also been recovered from an enclosure, which may have been used as a yard next to one of the turf and stone buildings.

Derek Alexander, head of archaeological services at National Trust for Scotland, said he was “delighted” with progress so far.

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“The main reason for doing this work is to see what the potential for doing bigger excavations. It is already showing up some good stuff.

“I’m delighted where we have got to in this short period. It is good to get a nice mix of items that look like they are dateable.”

Glencoe was the scene of one of Scotland’s most infamous murders of the clan era when the state backed the killing of the MacDonalds of Glencoe after their chief tried but failed to meet a deadline to pledge allegiance to King William II.

Achtriachtan is one six settlements in Glencoe that appear on Roy’s 18th century military maps but which disappear from documents by the 19th Century given the townships were cleared for sheep.

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Archaeological work will also be carried out by NTS at Achnacon and Inverrigan.

It was at Achnacon that Seargeant Robert Barber gathered his men in the early morning of 13 February 1692, some time before 5am, and ordered the kill.

At least 38 MacDonalds of Glencoe were murdered by troops led by Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, who along with his troops had enjoyed 12 nights of Highland hospitality in the homes of their MacDonald hosts.

Many more Highlanders are believed to have died after fleeing their townships, with some leaving their homes in advance after being tipped off about the planned execution by disenchanted soldiers.

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Mr Alexander believes that the human story of the glen is often overlooked.

It is now hope to tie the physical remains of the townships with the story of the massacre to better understand the iconic landscape.