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Archaeological Collections


The Historic Environment Scotland Collections includes a wealth of material illustrating and recording all types and periods of archaeological sites and monuments across Scotland.

Some of the oldest material, which was collected during the early 19th century is from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection, and includes records by antiquarians such as James Drummond, George Wilson and Sir Henry Dryden, as well as early excavation photographs from sites including Cairnpapple and Traprain Law. Other material includes historic prints by photographers such as John Patrick, Erskine Beveridge and James Ritchie, as well as early excavation photographs by the Office of Works and the Scottish Development Department.

Other noteworthy collections include material from the excavations of Vere Gordon Childe; watercolour drawings by John Nicolson, photographs by Tom E Gray and the research archive of Brian Hope-Taylor. HES is also the main repository in Scotland for all documentary archives from modern archaeological fieldwork, including surveys, watching briefs and excavations, and holds extensive material from commercial archaeological units and projects funded by Historic Scotland.

One of the largest components of the archaeological archive consists of records created by RCAHMS. These records have been produced since RCAHMS was established, in 1908, and continue to be added to on a daily basis. From the earliest notebooks and sketches, through the drawings and photographs for the county Inventories, to the latest laser scans, the collection contains information on thousands of monuments across Scotland, illustrating how both the monuments and the techniques used to record them have changed through the decades.

This gallery highlights images from across the collections at HES and contains examples which are being made available online for the first time. All the collections can be consulted in our Search Room or via our online resources. We also maintain an active digitisation programme, with new images being added to the database Canmore every day.

Curated by Kristina Watson, Archivist, Historic Environment Scotland