Friday, 27 May 2011

Anthropologist calls for survey of Harlaw Battlefield

A news item from STV Aberdeen about the battlefield of Harlaw in Aberdeenshire. This year sees the 600th Anniversary of the battle.

An anthropologist at Aberdeen University is calling for a new investigation into one of Scotland’s most historically significant battles.

Little is known about the the Battle of Harlaw, which was fought by the Gaelic army of Donald of Islay and an army assembled by Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar, and ended with no clear victor.

Dr Ian Russell, director of the Elphinstone Institute, wants advances in geophysical surveys to be used to examine the site as the 600th anniversary of the battle approaches.

The battle – which is said to have provided the impetus for the Scots and English languages to prosper at the expense of Gaelic - was fought two miles west of Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, north-west of the Harlaw Monument, and was a contest for the Earldom of Ross.

“The Battle of Harlaw is commemorated in ballad and legend as a major conflict between Highlanders and Lowlanders but we know little of the actual events of July 24, 1411,” Mr Russell said.

“Almost all we have to go on is the cultural legacy – no documentary evidence exists apart from the poems, songs and ballads written down many years after the time of the battle.

“We know that Harlaw was of great strategic importance at the time but we do not know the exact site of the battle or the numbers involved – Donald’s army was said to be 10,000 strong but modern historians think it was significantly smaller.

“The Battle of Harlaw is a fascinating bit of history from a very torrid time and we are sure that there is more which can be uncovered.

“We know it was very bloody but where were the dead buried? We would expect a geophysical survey to show up signs of potential burial pits. The ballad The Battle of Harlaw talks of 50,000 Highland men marching but what route did they take?

“We will bring together historians, genealogists, battlefield archaeologists and experts in heraldry, genealogy and cultural history for the Harlaw Remembered conference on June 9 at the Trinity Hall of the Seven Incorporated Trades. It would be wonderful to see a proper geophysical survey of the site undertaken.”

Geophysical surveys have been carried out at battlefields in the past including Culloden where they provided new insights into the last battle of the Jacobite risings.

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