Thanks to funding from the National Lottery and Museums Galleries Scotland, the project enabled 12 young people from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Argyll, Perth, Italy, Germany and France with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds to take part in an excavation with Guard Archaeology in early August.
The experience involved total immersion, with the young people staying on site and experiencing the old Highlands lifestyle in order to better understand the lives of the former residents.
So what did they find?
Although Auchindrain is the most complete and well-preserved example of a Scottish Highland farm township, buildings T and U had not previously been investigated. Almost nothing was known about these two long-abandoned structures or their inhabitants.
Archaeologists had anticipated the discovery of earth floors during a recent excavation, but were surprised when the young people found cobbles instead. Earth floors were generally used in houses, while byres and stables were laid with harder-wearing and better-draining cobbles.
This has revolutionised our understanding of Auchindrain. How exactly did this part of the site evolve from the end of the 18th century? Experts will now have to re-examine the archival sources and reassess how the buildings have been matched to the households in this area as reported in the census data from 1841.
Bob Clark, Auchindrain’s curator and director, said:
“Thanks to National Lottery players and Museums Galleries Scotland, we have been able to run a project which has transformed our understanding of how Auchindrain changed and developed. It has been like slotting a crucial puzzle piece into the jigsaw.”
Lucy Casot, Head of HLF Scotland, said:
“Uncovering where, and how, our ancestors lived helps communities to understand their own history and identity. Thanks to National Lottery players, HLF is able to support projects, such as A’ Ruamhar aig Achamh an Droighinn: Dig It! 2017 at Auchindrain, that produce tantalising clues about the past and provide volunteers with new skills.”
If you’d like to explore this open air museum for yourself, click here to visit the Auchindrain website.
Image credit: Bex Smith