Citizen archaeologists - your island needs you to help

Stac a' Chaisteil Garenin

Stac a' Chaisteil Garenin

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The SCAPE Trust is actively recruiting citizen archaeologists for their new project, Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk.

The project aims to train and support local volunteers to improve information about the condition of archaeological and historical sites on Scotland’s coasts.

Joanna Hambly, an archaeologist with the project, said: “Surveys have shown that around 1000 archaeological sites around Scotland’s coasts are highly vulnerable to loss as a result of erosion – and 20% of these are located in Lewis. Yet the pace of change in the coastal zone is such that it is difficult to keep up with what is being destroyed or revealed.

“Local people know their own coastline, so they are in the best position to notice changes to it. We have worked with communities around Scotland for many years, and know that there is a great deal more information known locally about archaeological and historical sites than is recorded in a standard survey.

“So, we want to hear from people about what they can add to the record – and we want to hear about what people would like to do at some of these sites.”

Deborah Anderson, Western Isles Archaeologist explained that the data for Lewis showed that the issue is acute. “People have been choosing to live, work and farm at the coast for millennia. The land is often more fertile in the coastal zone.

“Before roads, getting around was easier by sea, and of course the sea provides just about everything people need, from food to building materials. Yet, these low lying west facing sandy coasts face the full force of the wind and waves from the Atlantic. This is putting some of our most interesting and important archaeology at risk.

“We really need the public’s help to update our information on sites at risk to build a better picture of these priority sites.”

No special skills or experience are needed to become a citizen archaeologist and the surveys are designed to be carried out by members of public.

An interactive website and smart phone app have been developed, which makes accessing current information about coastal heritage and submitting new information very straightforward.

If you are a regular walker or visitor to the coast or if you live at the coast and know about local history and events related to it, your familiarity and knowledge is already the ideal qualification for taking part.

David Muir, manager with Coast Hebrides said: “This is a great opportunity for members of the community to actively contribute to research into the heritage of their coasts. Every new survey and piece of new information makes a valuable contribution to records of the state of coastal heritage in the Hebrides.”

Free training days for volunteer Citizen Archaeologists will be held at the Uig Community Centre on Saturday 8th June, from 10.30am until 4pm and at Comunn Eachdraidh Nis, Sgoil Chrois on Saturday 15th June from 10.30am until 4pm. These are bookable events.

To book a place at Uig, contact Ellie Graham elg5@st-andrews.ac.uk and to book a place at Ness, contact Anne Macleod at office@cenonline.org.

The project website www.scharp.co.uk tells you more about the project.