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Understanding the battlefield landscape

Sniper's Position, Killiecrankie
The main action of the battle usually started when opposing armies faced each other and came to close contact, but there were frequently other areas of skirmishing or secondary fighting before, during and after the course of a battle. Troops did not stay at a single spot, but moved across the landscape: as well as areas of fighting, there will have been routes of advance and retreat, overnight camps and strategic view-points. Features in the landscape were used for cover and to aid movement, or to hinder movement of the opposing force. When combatants fell, they were generally buried on or near the battlefield itself.

Defining the Area

All these aspects of the landscape were considered when deciding on the extent of the battlefield for the Inventory. Therefore the defined area includes the areas of fighting, major movement of troops, key vantage points for viewing events or directing troops, and overnight camps.  It includes specific landscape features that played an important role in the battle, whether natural elements such as hills, ravines or river crossings; or built elements, such as earthworks, buildings or field boundaries. The area may include burials, whether of individuals or massed graves, or have the potential for these to be found. Memorials to significant individuals or to the event itself may also be included, though these are often considerably later in date than the battle itself. The Inventory boundary will also contain areas of known archaeological deposits or potential archaeological evidence that, with further investigation, could help us understand more about key events.

State of Knowledge

Although no additional archaeological investigations have been carried out in researching the Inventory sites, such evidence has been used where available.  Modern archaeological investigations of some sites have provided information about exactly where events occurred across a battlefield; about troop deployments; about weapons used; and about features that were in place at the time of the battle or resulted from the action.  

While the landscape will usually have changed to some extent since the time of the battle, it often retains key characteristics of the terrain at the time and is of vital importance in allowing events to be located on the ground and in aiding understanding and interpretation.

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Historic Environment Scotland
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