Trust win prestigious National Archaeology Awards

The Caithness Archaeological Trust (CAT) is celebrating this week after receiving awards at the British Archaeology Awards ceremony, which are the country's most prestigious archaeological awards (also see

CAT won the Institute of Field Archaeologists Award for the best professional / voluntary archaeological project that demonstrates a commitment to professional standards and ethics in archaeology.

The premier award at the ceremony was the Silver Trowel Award; this is awarded for the greatest initiative in archaeology. CAT was the runner-up.

The awards, hosted in Belfast last Friday, were attended by trust members and the Archaeological Development Officer Andy Heald. Also in attendance were individuals and groups who have worked with CAT over the last year including John Barber (AOC Archaeology Group) and Jon Henderson (Nottingham University). CAT's vice-chairman Nan Bethune and trustee Islay MacLeod collected the awards.

The awards reflect the enormous amount of work that members and supporters of CAT have undertaken since the Trust's beginning 3 years ago. The Trust was set up to be an umbrella organisation that promotes and co-ordinates the development of aspects of Caithness archaeology. Particular focus is on increasing community access to archaeology and developing the social and economic potential of the archaeological resource. Projects organised to date include a large-scale survey around Yarrows and Watenan, construction of a chambered cairn at Spittal, school visits, new work on monuments, organisation of prestigious conferences and co-ordination of the recent Doors Open Day and Scottish Archaeology Month.

The judges of the British Archaeological Awards were extremely impressed with the number of initiatives that had been instigated by CAT and the strong community lead in partnerships which achieved this. One judge went so far as to say that the way forward for archaeological development in the future is to learn from, and follow, CAT's excellent example.

Andy Heald, said that CAT were "stunned but delighted" to receive the awards. He went on to say, "getting nominated was marvellous, but it's quite something to have won one award and finished runner-up in what is viewed as the Oscar of British archaeology. Everyone at CAT is thrilled". However, Andy was keen to stress that although members of CAT had the enjoyment of collecting the trophies, the awards were only possible due to the enthusiasm and assistance of the people of Caithness. Dr Heald added, "All of our projects have been driven by local people and communities. There is a huge desire to raise the potential of Caithness archaeology both locally and internationally for social, educational and economic benefits. Our work is beginning to do this. All members of CAT would like to thank everyone who has helped us over the last year, particularly our core funders, Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise, Leader +, Caithness Area of the Highland Council and Historic Scotland and local businesses who gave us invaluable sponsorship and support, without which projects could not have taken place".

CAT is still in its infancy yet the awards demonstrate the progress that the Trust has made over the last few years. Together with the continuing work by members of the community it may not be too long before the archaeology of the county is visited and appreciated on a European-wide scale. As Nan Bethune said, "The awards were important for a number of reasons but perhaps the biggest bonus was the level of free publicity Caithness received. We couldn't have bought better".

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