Secrets of Culloden Battlefield revealed in most detailed map of moor in history

A new map of Culloden Battlefield has unlocked new insight on the landscape where soldiers clashed 275 years ago.

Thousands of airborne laser scans have been taken of the battlefield, with the data allowing conservationists to see exactly how the land lay on April 16, 1746 when Jacobites met the British Army in the last battle of the failed 1745 rising.

The latest LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology has allowed National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to peel away changes to the landscape over time to see how it appeared 275 years ago

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NTS said the map “shed new insight” on the topography of Culloden and what soldiers would have been able to see as the battle unfolded shortly after 1pm.

A new map of Culloden Battlefield gives new insight into how the land lay on April 16, 1746 when Jacobites clashed with the British Army in the last act of the failed rising led by Bonnie Prince Charlie to restore his family line to the British throne. PIC: NTS.
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Derek Alexander head of archaeology at National Trust for Scotland, said: “These maps give us the most detailed understanding currently possible of how the landscape looked in 1746.

"Thanks to 21st-century technology, we can use these to get a feel for what soldiers on the battlefield would actually have been able to see of their opponents, their positions and their weaponry. In terms of understanding the tactics and the outcome, it’s a really powerful tool.”

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The maps will be unveiled to the public for the first time at an online event today, which will commemorate the 275th anniversary of the battle.

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The maps have been created by AOC Archaeology and also include layers that show where archaeological excavations have happened over the years and the objects that have been found there.

Finds include buttons and buckles torn off in the struggle, musket balls, a bayonet, a king’s shilling and a pewter cross.

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Raoul Curtis-Machin, operations manager at Culloden, said the maps would help with the conservation and the protection of the battlefield.

Around a third of the battlefield is owned by NTS with the remainder in private hands and vulnerable from housing development.

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Views from the Culloden memorial cairn now include 16 homes that were built within the historic boundary of the battlefield.

On Friday, on the anniversary of the battle, NTS made its strongest plea yet that battlefields are protected in law like scheduled monuments and listed buildings.

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Politicians have been urged to support a change to planning policy as well as Culloden’s application for Unesco World Heritage Site status.

Raoul Curtis-Machin, operations manager at Culloden, said: “These maps aren’t just for the past, they’ll also help us to protect Culloden for the future.

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"Their detailed information gives us a clear understanding of how the site has been altered through building and development over the centuries, all of which is invaluable as we strive to retain all that is special about this site that is of such significance to Scotland’s story.”

Details found within the new map will be presented as part of NTS’s online commemorations of the battle today.

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Events will begin with an address from Martin MacGregor, chief of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, and a new Gaelic poem by Maoilios Caimbeul.

From 10am, Dr Darren S Layne will talk on the enduring appeal of Culloden with Peter Pininski, art historian and direct descendant of Bonnie Prince Charlie, to explore flaws of the Jacobite leader.

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Historians Professor Murray Pittock and Prof Christopher Duffy will discuss the new map with NTS lead archaeologist Derek Alexander from 11am.

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