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Public meeting will discuss site of Dun Nechtain battle

23 April 2012

Historic Scotland is hosting a public meeting to present the results of research carried out on the seventh-century battle of Dun Nechtain, as part of a project to produce an Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Scotland.

The battle in 685 AD marked a turning point in early Scottish history, when the Picts defeated a strong Northumbrian army, allowing the victors to expand their authority and become the dominant nation in northern Britain.

Historic Scotland has funded research to try to establish the location of the battlefield as part of its work for the Inventory of Historic Battlefields. It will present its findings at the Reid Hall in Forfar, on Thursday, May 10th at 7pm. Representatives of Historic Scotland and the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology will then lead a discussion on the results of the research.

Olwyn Owen, head of the Historic Scotland team responsible for battlefields, said: “Dun Nechtain was an important battle because it changed the balance of power within Scotland at the time. The victory of Fortriu not only secured their own autonomy from Northumbria, it also allowed Bridei to expand his authority over the many smaller Pictish kingdoms of Scotland.

“Only 50 years after the battle, Pictland was considered a single kingdom, covering all of mainland Scotland north of the Forth and Clyde valleys, with the sole exception of the Kingdom of Dal Riata in the west. Conversely, the battle was a devastating blow to the Northumbrians, and marked the beginning of the end for the imperium of Northumbria.

“Our difficulty lies in locating the battlefield in the modern landscape with sufficient confidence to allow it to be included in the Inventory. Accurate location is one of the key criteria for inclusion. Dun Nechtain is one of the earliest battles we have considered and, in common with other early battles, there is no physical evidence of the battlefield and very limited historical information to go on.”

“We know there is a huge amount of support locally for the traditional site of the battle in Angus to be recognised in the Inventory, and I hope that many of the people who have contacted us about this site in the past will be able to join us and perhaps reveal local sources of information that could help us with the research.

“We are delighted that Dr Iain Banks of The Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, which has carried out the research for us, will be able to join us to talk through their findings.”

Dr Banks said: “We recognise the tremendous historical significance of the Battle of Dun Nechtain. This meeting is an important opportunity for people to offer us any further information or insights that we may have missed so far. We are keen to see any evidence that will inform our findings.”

Historic Scotland is soon to launch a public consultation on the third batch of sites proposed for the Inventory. This will include a list of early sites which are recognised as nationally important events, but cannot be located on the basis of current knowledge. These will be reviewed should further information come to light. The findings for Dun Nechtain will be included in the consultation, informed by the public meeting.

The Inventory of Historic Battlefields currently includes nearly 30 of the nation’s most important battle sites, including Culloden and Bannockburn.

To be included in the Inventory, a battlefield site must be considered nationally important for its contribution to Scotland’s history and archaeology, and it must also be possible to provide a map of its location based on robust evidence. The Inventory takes account both of physical remains and the landscape context. The boundaries of battlefields in the Inventory must be recorded on a modern map to allow them to be protected through the planning system.

The consultation on the next group of sites proposed for inclusion in the Inventory will begin on May 18th, and runs for six weeks until the end of June.

Notes for editors

1. Each inventory report describes the battlefield and the reasons for its inclusion. These include a summary of the battle and its historical context, and a brief indication of its importance in relation to historical association, physical remains, and archaeological potential. The inventory map indicates the extent of the battlefield, defining the overall area of interest. It includes the area where the main elements of the battle are believed to have taken place, where associated physical remains and archaeological evidence occur or may be expected, and where additional landscape components such as strategic viewpoints may lie.

2. Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

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For further information

David Gray
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8588 or 07854 366 805