Archaeology in Scotland!

Courtney Geddes


The HARP Field School was an in-person learning experience, commencing August 8th, 2022, and running until August 19th, 2022. We met in Pitlochry, Scotland to complete the course in the Highlands. This is where we were introduced to both the teaching team and fellow university undergraduate and graduate students. The well-established team that we learned from consisted of Ian Hill, Kieran Manchip, Tom Lyons, and additionally Dr. Victoria Gordon. The students learning and working together under this team flew from all over North America to participate in such an amazing experience.

In the following order, we explored three main site locations in the central Scottish Highlands over the course of ten days:

➢ 1. Mapping of General Wade’s Military Road

➢ 2. Upper and Lower Gaskan Surveying

➢ 3. Points of Interest on Schiehallion (nearby Munro)

(1) On the first day, during a brief surveying journey, a portion of the otherwise unmapped military road was re-discovered. The established map had located the road where the current highway runs, yet there was a straying portion. The mapping of the military road is a helpful tool to understand the path of General Wade’s army and consequently the Jacobite’s. Through further exploration, there were many additional aspects uncovered in relation to this Military Road such as culverts, ditches, banks, pits, a trackway, and quarries.

(2) When surveying the Upper and Lower Gaskan sites, we got to truly experience the beauty of the Highlands driving in the mornings and afternoons through the countryside. At these sites we got to complete building and surrounding structure recordings. The Upper Gaskan site was partially covered in wooded forests and the other half was in the open, running North to South along a subtle slope. The Lower Gaskan site was at the bottom end of the sloped incline and contained a structure built with increased advancement, a cairn and a large enclosure potentially holding livestock, gardens, or providing a meeting spot.

(3) Near the end of our journey, we got to trek a portion of Schiehallion in search of previously established structures to record. These structures included longhouses which proved difficult to find due to the seasonal challenge of the long grasses and alternating weather conditions. We discovered the heavily concealed longhouse remnants outlined with heather.

These three site locations provide important contextual information on the impact of the Jacobite Uprisings and the Highland Clearances. The Highland Clearances are displayed as prominent in these sites due to the large number of old abandoned structures in the Highlands, which would have had further settlement implications in the area. These events help us to understand the social and cultural ideologies of the past and lingering impacts seen in present day Scotland. I learned significant data from these sites contributing to my knowledge on my areas of interest.

After the field school had been completed, I was fortunate enough to be able to continue my learning experience regarding the subject matter I took the most interest in. I was able to analyze collected data from previous years, and the current year I partook in. The ability to look closely at all the available data was a great source in understanding how aspects we archaeologically explored provide social and cultural context to the past. Following the ten-day field school and frequent reflection I have come to the following conclusions…

First Thoughts

There are a wide range of ideologies surrounding the Jacobite Uprisings (1688-1746) and Scotland Clearances (1750-1860), many influenced by media misconceptions. With media influenced myths concerning Highland history, it is important to have archaeological data aiding in proper understanding of the cultural and societal implications. Prior to my time spent in Scotland, I employed preconceived notions that glorified and romanticized the Jacobite Army. Simultaneously painting a picture in my mind that the change brought by these transformative periods were negative (e.g. the rest of the world was changing and evolving but the Highlands were not and were instead stuck in their old-fashioned ways), but this is not necessarily the case.

I have created four ‘posters’ which are spread throughout this blog post. These were created in the developmental phase of my ideas but I believe they will aid in the understanding of the period and articulating my findings. The overarching topic that intrigued me was understanding how the settlement patterns following the Jacobite Uprisings reflected changing society and Scottish culture.

Poster 1 - What were the Jacobite Uprisings?

The first poster provides basic background knowledge of the Jacobite Uprisings. The culmination of this poster helped me to understand the following: what sparked the Jacobite Uprisings, the purpose of this rebellion, who ‘typically’ was involved in the rebellion, and the extensive societal consequences of this era in the Highlands.

Poster 2 - Pre-1746 Settlements in the Highlands

The second poster provides an overview on what Highland society and culture was before the extensive changes brought by the Highland Clearances. The information includes allegiance to the clan and the general workings of settlement patterns. As well as what having a Highland identity meant.

Poster 3 - Post-1746 Settlements in the Highlands

Poster three, provides an overview on what Scottish Highland society and culture was following the extensive changes brought by the Highland Clearances. This is split up into phase one and phase two of the Highland Clearances. Including information on how settlement organizations changed after Great Britain passed bills to change the law.

Poster 4 - Highland Abandoned Settlements

Poster four provides some of the HARP field school contributions to this scope. It gives an overview of Building 669 (Lower Gaskan) and Building 1039 (Upper Gaskan), as well as the socio-cultural indicators of status and culture provided by these settlements.


There has been a lot of beneficial information learned from the HARP Field School throughout its duration. This was a really great experience to apply knowledge, learn new field methods, and apply these field methods in an outstanding environment. I was able to broaden my horizons past medical anthropology and into the discipline of archaeology—that I had not been able to explore prior. This field school provided me the opportunity to use various methodologies on a primary research scale that I otherwise would not have had access to. These methods include desk-based assessments, historical document analysis, field surveying, utilization of site recording forms, site sketches, building recording, and access to recorded archives.

My experience in Scotland participating in this field school has certainly been a highlight of my university experience. This makes me very grateful to have been part of this valuable experience and I would encourage others to join as well. There is still so much left to analyze and comprehend to better understand the impacts of the Jacobite Uprisings and Highland Clearance eras.

Throughout my journey in Scotland, I gained broader perspectives and learned new intercultural approaches which I can apply to understanding developing socio-cultural conditions. I learned the importance of interpreting research with a comprehensive mindset and to take all considerations into account. Throughout this learning experience, I was certainly pushed outside my comfort zone to expand my learning, experience new things, and understand the world by taking intercultural perspectives into account. This journey allowed me to discover my potential and prepare me for a future where I can apply the lessons I learned during my experiences.