‘Glencoe Massacre’ coin hoard discovered

Excavations at a site believed to have been used as a ‘summerhouse’ by Alasdair Ruadh ‘Maclain’ MacDonald, chief of the MacDonalds of Glencoe from 1646 to 1692, have revealed a coin hoard underneath the grand fireplace.

The University of Glasgow carried out the excavations in Glencoe this past August, as part of an annual field school. The coin hoard, contained in a pot with a small pebble for a lid, was hidden beneath a hearthstone. It was discovered by archaeology student Lucy Ankers.

Image: Gareth Beale

Analysis of the coins has shown that they range in date from the late 1500s to the 1680s, with issues of Elizabeth I, James I and VI, Charles I, the Cromwellian Commonwealth, and Charles II, as well as coins from France, the Spanish Netherlands, and the Papal States. None of the coins were minted after the 1680s, which could indicate that they were deposited either before or during the 1692 Glencoe Massacre, when 38 members and associates of the MacDonald clan – including Maclain and his wife – were killed by government forces (see CA 378).

The excavation revealed that the house was used as a hunting lodge and feasting hall. Finds including fowling shot, a gun flint, and a powder measure speak to its use for hunting, while fine imported dining ware suggest that it was used to impress guests as well.

Edward Stewart, Excavations Director of the Glencoe investigations, said: ‘These excavations have allowed us better to understand how landscapes such as Glencoe might have been occupied and managed through the early modern period. Our previous investigations of the nearby summer shieling settlements offered an opportunity to understand how communities of herders lived and worked in these landscapes; now the excavation of “Maclain’s Summerhouse” allows us better to understand the importance of these uplands to local elites.’

A 3D model of the site is available on Sketchfab: https://sketchfab.com/ 3d-models/the-summerhouse-of-maciain-7fd6e72bee79479fb2e70a07cfb78bfe.