Coin hoard uncovered in fireplace gives 'insight into Glencoe massacre'

An archaeology student from the University of Glasgow discovered 36 hidden coins in a Glencoe from before 1692.

Glencoe massacre coin hoard found in grand fireplace gives ‘rare glimpse’ into brutal incident University of Glasgow via Supplied

A centuries-old coin hoard has given an insight to the massacre of Glencoe, archaeologists say.

Archaeology student Lucy Ankers from the University of Glasgow discovered the 36 coins in a pot hidden in the grand fireplace of a Glencoe summer house during a dig in August 2023.

None of the coins were minted after the 1680s – which has led archaeologists to suggest that they were most likely deposited under the fireplace either just before or during the infamous 1692 massacre for safekeeping.

Excavations indicate the property was a hunting lodge and feasting hall used by Clan MacDonald chiefs in the 17th century to entertain, host hunts and gather their people to dispense justice.

Lucy discovered the 36 coins in a fireplace. University of Glasgow via Supplied

Lucy said: “As a first experience of a dig, Glencoe was amazing. The two weeks I spent digging solidified that I want to pursue a career within archaeology. I wasn’t expecting such an exciting find as one of my firsts, and I don’t think I will ever beat the feeling of seeing the coins peeking out of the dirt in the pot.”

The pot, containing 36 silver and bronze coins, includes coins dating from the late 1500s through to the 1680s, including pieces from the reigns of Elizabeth I, James VI and I, Charles I, the Cromwellian Commonwealth, and Charles II.

An estimated 38 members and associates of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed on February 13, 1692 for their alleged failure to pledge allegiance to new monarchs William III and Mary II.

Whoever buried the coins, did not return for them which could indicate that they were among the victims of the massacre.

Dr Michael Given, a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Co-Director of the University of Glasgow’s archaeological project in Glencoe, said: “These exciting finds give us a rare glimpse of a single, dramatic event. Here’s what seems an ordinary rural house, but it has a grand fireplace, impressive floor slabs, and exotic pottery imported from the Netherlands and Germany. And they’ve gathered up an amazing collection of coins in a little pot and buried them under the fireplace.

“What’s really exciting is that these coins are no later than the 1680s: so were they buried in a rush as the Massacre started first thing in the morning of the 13th February 1692?

“We know some of the survivors ran through the blizzard and escaped up the side glens, including this one: were these coins witnesses to this dramatic story? It’s a real privilege, as archaeologists, to hold in our hands these objects that were so much part of people’s lives in the past.”

Derek Alexander, Head of Archaeology at the National Trust for Scotland, the conservation charity who care for the Glencoe National Nature Reserve, said: “The work undertaken by Eddie and the team from the University of Glasgow in Gleann Leac-na-muidhe, and the range of artefacts recovered, in particular the discovery of the coin hoard, will make a lasting and significant contribution to our understanding of the history and archaeology of Glencoe.

“This exciting discovery, from another part of the dramatic landscape, adds to the work previously undertaken at the townships of Achtriachtan and Achnacon.

“Gradually a fuller story is being pieced together, not just about the time of the infamous Massacre, but also of everyday life in the glen before and after 1692.”

Catriona Davidson, Curator, Glencoe Folk Museum, said: “This is such an exciting moment for local heritage – finding objects like these creates such a tangible connection to the people who occupied the Glen in the past and inspires us to learn more about how they lived.

“It’s been our privilege to host the Archaeology Team in the Museum this year, and great to see them interacting with the local community, who appreciated the opportunity to speak to experts about the area’s rich archaeology.

“We loved seeing our collection through the eyes of the students; the creative ways they interpreted our objects has been impressive, and we are looking forward to sharing their resources with our visitors in the future!”

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