10.1.4 Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

Before suggesting research questions and recommendations (see 10.9), it is useful to identify the regional post-medieval period strengths and weaknesses and to characterise these as either “within reach of a solution” (opportunities) or with no obvious solution (threats). Many of these relate to all periods, and are outlined in Chapter 3 which is relevant in this context.

Strengths:

  • Large number of settlement remains, including individual buildings, townships, corn kilns, lime kilns and shielings, especially in upland locations though occasional survivals elsewhere as well.
  • Large number of well-preserved mills and other industrial remains with good mapping and documentary evidence.
  • Large number of surviving wartime remains.
  • Large number of metal-detected finds, together with excavation and older museum finds, largely untapped for the information they can provide.
  • Documentary sources, maps and aerial photographs can be integrated into the picture, with opportunities for further environmental work.
  • Good evidence of industrial and craft activity.
  • Napier Commission and Brand (or Deer Forest) Commission testimonies provide perspectives of the poorer tenants on many estates in the late 19th century.

Weaknesses:

  • Improved arable farming destroyed pre-Improvement settlements particularly in the eastern Highlands.
  • Afforestation in the last centuries has destroyed evidence in a number of locations including Great Glen and Badenoch and Strathspey.
  • Limited investigation from human remains possible due to burials in long-used cemeteries.
  • Lack of landscape studies, and few excavations of rural settlements.
  • Access to estate papers – a vital source of information – is poor, and we simply don’t know what’s in a lot of these archives.  Some are also in poor condition (a threat).
  • Very little engagement with Gaelic material
  • Rare use of multi-disciplinary approaches
  • Lack of joined up working between fieldworkers and more academically minded archaeologists doing work in the region
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Opportunities:

  • The first edition OS maps preserve a wealth of data which is in many cases untapped. There is great potential for mining this material, adding to heritage databases, and checking for remains on the ground.
  • Dendrochronology holds great promise for dating, climate information, and evidence of native or imported timber.
  • Intertidal areas hold much potential when investigating issues related to fishing, wrecks and wartime infrastructure.
  • More integration of Gaelic sources.
  • Archaeology has the possibility to provide nuanced interpretation concerning many of the historical narratives about settlement, industrial activity, and community interactions.

Threats

  • Increased afforestation targets for coming years threaten a number of sites.
  • Vernacular buildings are under threat from redevelopment and the ravages of time.
  • Loss of local knowledge and oral tradition.
  • Gaelic language loss is eroding our ability to fully understand many of the sources, both written and oral, and weakening ties between language and place.

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