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23rd July 2009


A team of highly experienced archaeologists from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) are coming to Caithness in September to run a free archaeological training course as part of the Scotland's Rural Past nationwide project. They are calling for local people to sign up and get involved.

Scotland's Rural Past (SRP) is a five year project, working with local groups, schools and individuals to investigate, record and raise awareness of abandoned settlements in their local area. SRP aims to encourage volunteers to discover more about historic rural settlements and the people that lived in them, and to improve understanding of rural heritage dating back several hundred years. The SRP team teach valuable new techniques and skills in identifying, surveying and recording archaeological features, and in researching historical documents. Volunteers come away from the courses with a rediscovered sense of place and greater understanding of the changing historic landscape in their area.

The information on historic rural settlements gathered by the volunteers across the country helps build our understanding of this important period of Scottish history. This information becomes part of the local Sites and Monuments Records, and the RCAHMS database, housed in Edinburgh, where it will be made accessible to the general public and preserved for years to come.

Following a very well-attended presentation session on SRP in April this year - in partnership with Andrew Wright and the Caithness Redundant Buildings Inventory - the SRP team are working with local people to develop new initiatives to record and preserve the unique rural heritage of Caithness. On 4 and 5 September 2009, SRP is offering a two-day training course near Thurso focusing on archaeological survey and recording techniques. The course is free and open to anyone interested in researching rural history. No experience is necessary, just a genuine desire to learn more about your rural past and built heritage, and an interest in getting involved in a local project. Places on the course are limited so early booking is advised.

Project manager Tertia Barnett said "We had a fantastic reception from local people at the presentation in April, and there has been an enthusiastic response to the SRP project. The project team is really looking forward to coming to Caithness and building on this enthusiasm. The rural heritage of Caithness is disappearing rapidly with changing land uses and building traditions. We will be working with local people to improve awareness of this unique heritage and to help capture it through research and recording.

"We have been overwhelmed by the response from volunteers from all around Scotland, with many of the previous training courses becoming fully booked very quickly. There are still places available on the Caithness training course, so we would urge people who might be interested to contact us as soon as possible to find out more."

More information about Scotland's Rural Past and its training programme is available from To register your interest in the training course, please email the Scotland's Rural Past team at srp[AT] or phone them on 0131 662 1456.

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