Researchers from the University of Aberdeen teamed up with a voluntary conservation society, the Bailies of Bennachie, to host a community archaeology weekend which has helped to unlock the secrets of the ‘Bennachie Colonists’.
Bennachie Landscapes got off to a wonderful start and saw over 70 volunteers enjoying the sunshine whilst digging ‘shovel-pits’ as part of the archaeological sampling process which was aimed at finding out more about the material culture and landscape of the 19th century Colonists.
Three areas were sampled by the volunteers who came from a range of backgrounds and age groups and included a group of youngsters from Aboyne Academy who proved to be extremely dedicated and skilled.
Many others came as family groups of children, parents and grand-parents and one descendant of one of the Colonist families, the Findlaters, also visited the site.
The finds of mainly pottery and china, clay pipes, glass and metal were discussed by Dr Rick Knecht from the University.
The collection of artefacts have begun to give an accurate insight into the lifestyles and relative affluence of the Colonists, who, according to the local lairds were virtual social outcasts.
The ‘colony’ on the slopes of Bennachie is celebrated in the north-east for having been a site of tension between 19th century crofter-colonists, who settled on unoccupied common land, and neighbouring landowners.
The landowners eventually took up court action to divide the common land, forcing the colonists to either leave the settlement or to become tenants.
The result of the weekend’s work is beginning to present a different picture of a community of small-scale farmers living little differently from their neighbours in the surrounding countryside.
Anyone wishing to become involved in Bennachie Landscapes can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bailiesofbennachie.co.uk.