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Site of Jacobite last stand laser-scanned

Up to 2000 men lie beneath Culloden Moor having fallen when the Jacobite dream ended there 270 years ago on Saturday, but now their resting place is being digitally examined from above.

Site of Jacobite last stand laser-scanned
Aerial LiDAR image of Culloden [Credit: National Trust for Scotland]
Archaeologists from the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), which manages what is one of Scottish history's the most iconic sites, are using cutting-edge, laser scanning, technology to provide a detailed model of the battlefield of Culloden.

They want to get a better understanding of a place where the course of British history was changed.

Stefan Sagrott, Archaeological Data Officer for the National Trust for Scotland explained: “LiDAR is revolutionising the way that archaeologists work and look for archaeological sites. Because we can view and light the digital model from different angles, it can pull out topographical features that we wouldn’t see in any other way. It’s providing us with a view of the Culloden battlefield that we’ve never had before, and that’s really exciting.”

Aerial LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) is captured by using a pulsed laser beam fired from a plane. The beam scans from side to side over the survey area and measures thousands of points per second to build up a highly accurate and detailed model of the ground and the features on it.

“We can filter the LiDAR data to remove some of the vegetation such as tree cover and this might allow us to find archaeological remains which are currently hidden within the tree cover” Mr Sagrott said.

He continued :“Having such a detailed topographical survey of the battlefield means that we can also use GIS to carry out analysis of it to look at the positions that the different forces held and to see if the terrain had an influence on how it played out. The data will help us to manage and conserve the battlefield area, and we hope to use it in innovative ways to increase the visitor experience and understanding of the battlefield as well."

He said it was also known that the area had a lot of prehistoric remains, such as the Clava Cairns just to the south of Culloden Battlefield, and these had been captured by the LiDAR survey as well.

"So we’ll be using the data to visualise these and look at other archaeological sites in the area,” he said.

Source: Herald Scotland [April 15, 2016]

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