1,000 lost ancient sites found on Scottish island

A cutting-edge archaeological project using innovative technology has revealed around 1,000 previously unknown archaeological sites on the Isle of Arran.

An aerial photo of the Isle of Arran, where new technology has revealed 1,000 previously unknown ancient sites. PIC: Historic Environment Scotland.

The project, undertaken by archaeologists at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), used airborne laser scanning, also known as lidar, to document the land surface in 3D.

Prehistoric settlements, medieval farmsteads and a Neolithic cursus monument - an exceptionally rare find on the west coast of Scotland - are among the finds made.

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A newly discovered group of shieling huts in Glen Iorsa. PIC: Historic Environment Scotland.

Heritage chiefs believe "tens of thousands" more sites could be found using the technology.

Dave Cowley, Rapid Archaeological Mapping Manager at HES, said: “This survey has shown us that there are double the number of ancient monuments on Arran than we previously knew about.

"We have been able to see how densely settled parts of Arran were, and the medieval and post-medieval shieling sites that were discovered have told us how upland areas were used by shepherds.

A medieval roundhouse is among new sites to emerge from the landscape. PIC: Historic Environment Scotland.

“This is an exciting time to be involved in the development of remote sensing and archaeological mapping.

"We are exploring the benefits of new technology and new datasets to record Scotland’s historic environment and inform our knowledge of the past.

"As a result, we are enriching the information through which we tell Scotland’s story. And Arran is just a first step. As this technology become more widely available, we expect to find tens of thousands more ancient sites across the rest of Scotland – working at a pace that was unimaginable a few years ago.”

The lidar data is available from the Scottish Government Remote Sensing Portal.

This ruinous footing of a small shepherds hut will help enhance the history of the island and its people. PIC: Historic Environment Scotland.

Shona Nicol, Head of the Geographical Information Science and Analysis team, said: “It is great to see HES making such exciting use of the increasing amount of remote sensing data becoming available which will help to play a part in keeping Scotland at the forefront in this field.”

The survey results are available to view on Canmore – Scotland’s National Record of the Historic Environment.