SWAD: Home Page



An Iron Age alder figure found in Ballachulish Moss in 1880

Following the successful compilation of the archaeological database for the Scottish raised bogs by the Centre for Field Archaeology (CFA) in 1995, for Historic Scotland (HS) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT), the project was extended to include information across the whole range of the Scottish wetlands. The importance of wetlands as repositories of archaeological information and the fact that this has not often been considered in conservation, planning or management issues, coupled to the knowledge that wetlands are amongst the nation's most threatened habitats, provided the impetus. This project was completed by CFA in 1996. In addition to being a valuable collation of archaeological information from the Scottish wetlands, the resulting database demonstrated the international importance of Scottish wetlands as a cultural resource. It provides a major management tool for Historic Scotland and local curatorial archaeologists, enabling a vital part of our cultural heritage to be integrated into land management and later interpretative schemes. Further, as a valuable resource for the educational and research communities, there are potentially wide-ranging applications across many disciplines.

The database was used successfully by AOC Archaeology Group (AOC) in 1998 as part of an Historic Scotland (HS) commissioned project designed primarily to produce a fuller understanding of the potential of Scottish wetland archaeology. In the light of this work some modifications were made to the original database and the project also generated supplementary information on certain sites.

Sources of information on the database

Most of the information on the database was obtained by constructing digital overlays of wetland boundary information, provided by SNH and MLURI, with archaeological information held by RCAHMS in the NMRS. Manual searches of the databases and datasets held by the NMS and the Hunterian Museum were also undertaken. The data in this database can only be as accurate as the information from which it was sourced.


Clarke, C.M. and Finlayson, W. (1995) Scottish archaeological database for the raised bogs. CFA Technical Report No. 199.

Clarke, C.M. (1997) Archaeological database for the Scottish Wetlands. CFA Report 298.

Ellis, C. (1999) Archaeological Assessment of the Scottish Wetlands. Unpublished report for Historic Scotland.

Development of the database

The database created in 1996 and modified in 1998 contains over 6000 records. The data was stored in Microsoft Access as an essentially flat database with copies of the database, in different versions, held by CFA, AOC and HS. The aim of this project was to take this database and make it available to a much wider audience through the web. In order to achieve this aim an obvious route to pursue was to present the database as an open-access website, much along the same lines as the Scottish Palaeoecological Archive Database (SPA Database), which was also funded by Historic Scotland. The placing of SWAD on the Internet would enable easy access to the most up to date version of the database.

Database and table creation

The first stage in the development was to export the data from the single table in Microsoft Access database and create and populate multiple tables in the new database. They allow new data to entered and existing data to be edited. The new database is now stored in an Oracle relational database management system held on a server in the Department of Geography, University of Edinburgh. A total of 19 tables were created, consisting of 7 primary tables and 12 lookup tables. Some of these tables are shared with the SPA Database, which exists within the same database structure. The relational nature of the database allows complex searches to be undertaken in an efficient manner. The close physical links with the SPA Database also allows combined searches of both databases.

Data entry forms and data correction

The second stage was the development of data entry forms. These forms are only available to those responsible for maintaining the data in the database. At this stage some editing of the data was necessary to enable the links between the different tables to operate properly. This mainly consisted of correcting any errors in the parish, council and district names. New data was also added, such as the inclusion of the Region the records were found in. All of the locational data (grid reference) was standardised and converted into northings and eastings. This data is converted back into grid references when displayed on the web pages. The northings and eastings are also used to plot the position of sites on maps. The northings and eastings were also converted into latitude and longitude in ArcInfo and these are also available.

WWW development and implementation

The final stage of the project was to create the SWAD website and allow users to query the database through search forms. The link between the web pages and the Oracle database is based on the experience of two other databases: Tephrabase (a tephrochronological database) and the SPA Database. The development of SWAD led to refinements of this process and an increase in the speed of the searches.

A total of 12 primary searches are now available, enabling the database to be queried on location (administrative areas and grid references) and type of archaeological record. It is also possible to combine these searches to look for particular types of archaeological record in an area. The database can also be searched on the type of soil the archaeological record was found in and on the protected nature of a record or site. From each primary query it is then possible to obtained detailed information about each record. Cross linking queries are also available. An exciting addition to the capability of the database is the ability to plot the exact location of all sites which have location data on Ordnance Survey based maps.