Archaeologists launch ‘Uist Unearthed’ app

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The Uist Virtual Archaeology Project is launching its brand-new app, Uist Unearthed.

Created and led by archaeologists from Lews Castle College UHI and supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the project aims to encourage communities and visitors to download the app and explore seven of Uist’s most significant archaeological sites.

From well-preserved Neolithic burial tombs to one of the largest Viking trading posts in Scotland, Uist is home to hundreds of spectacular archaeological sites. Offering access courses through to postgraduate degrees, Lews Castle College UHI presents an amazing opportunity to study these diverse and internationally significant locations in stunning landscapes with leading experts.

The first of its kind, this innovative app contains augmented reality reconstructions of archaeological sites along the Hebridean Way in Uist. Each reconstruction is triggered once a site is reached, encouraging users to explore sites in their landscape settings after scanning a QR code.

The first site available is Bronze Age Cladh Hallan, located in South Uist. As well as stunningly realistic visualisations of the site as it may have looked 3,500 years ago, the app also includes 3D models of artefacts, animations, audio, and bilingual text content. The app and reconstructions have been created by Peel Interactive, which specialises in the development of immersive digital experiences for the heritage and tourism sector.

Project coordinator Dr Emily Gal said: ‘We are thrilled to finally launch our fantastic app, and proud to have had extensive local input throughout the app development and testing process. The promotional video was created by UistFilm, with bespoke music created by Lews Castle College UHI music students. The app was tested by numerous community stakeholders including the pupils of Sgoil Bhaile a’Mhanaich and Sgoil Lionacleit, with app content translations provided by Ceòlas Uibhist.’

The project was awarded £271,000 as part of a new £5 million Scottish programme of projects to invest in the Highlands and Islands to provide more high-quality opportunities for visitors to enjoy natural and cultural heritage assets. The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund is administered by NatureScot and is part funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The project is also supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Crown Estate Ward Funds and Stòras Uibhist.

Eileen Stuart, deputy director of nature and climate change at NatureScot, said: ‘It’s great news that we can help support such an exciting project through our Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund. This new app brilliantly showcases the rich historical sites along the Hebridean Way, giving visitors even more to enjoy and learn about the islands’ unique landscape and culture.’

Councillor Donald Crichton, chairman of the Western Isles Council’s sustainable development committee, said: ‘Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar is delighted to support the UVAP initiative. The project is innovative in its use of new technologies to allow us greater insight into the past. The mixed media experiences that will be developed by UVAP will create a new visitor offering in Uist but will also offer an addition window into the past for local people. I am particularly happy that the project will help to open up the Islands’ archaeological treasures to a wider audience.’