Translocation Excavation

excavation tents

The Translocation Excavation was a community-led excavation of a longhouse at Caen, in the Strath of Kildonan, that took place in the summer of 2013; part of a programme of events marking the Bicentenary of the Kildonan Clearances 1813-2013.

The longhouse was the hub of family life, a place for both living and working. However, during the Highland Clearances many hundreds were abandoned when the landowners evicted their tenants to use the land for more profitable sheep farming. The excavation of the longhouse at Caen brought this era of history to the surface in a project – see some of our exciting finds here.


The project team was truly multi-disciplinary, drawing on a varied range of expertise, and included:

Dr Keir Strickland – archaeologist and lecturer, Orkney College UHI (site director)
Dr Chris Davies – archaeologist, Durham University (site supervisor)
Dr Matthew Dziennick – historian, Edinburgh University (site supervisor)
Rick Barton – freelance archaeologist, Shetland (site supervisor)
Carolyn Lefley – artist and lecturer in photography (artist-in-residence responding to the excavation through an exploration of ‘home’. Find out more about Carolyn’s work on her residency blog.)
Adam Hannah – an anthropologist from Aberdeen University
Dr Alan Miller and John McCaffery – computer science lecturer and PhD student (developing the Caen Virtual World, a virtual recreation of the longhouse at Caen)

The excavation was community-led, having been initiated following local interest in conducting an exploration. During the dig many members of the community took part,  physically engaging with their own history. This included both locals and those from the wider international community of the Diaspora. One such participant was Jeff Rule who had travelled to Helmsdale from New Zealand to trace his family who had been cleared from the Strath of Kildonan. Hear him discussing his journey to trace his routes on Our Own Odysseys on Radio New Zealand here.

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