THE Darien Venture is often seen as one of Scotland's great follies: a flawed attempt to establish its own overseas empire that was doomed from the start, crippled the country financially, and led to the 1707 Act of Union.
But a new archaeological expedition into a previously unexplored area of the Darien Isthmus has shown that plans to establish a colony and set up a trade route across Panama were not foolhardy or ridiculous but entirely feasible.
The story of the Darien Venture is well-known: financial adventurer William Paterson led the ambitious expedition, funded by public subscription, to set up The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies. His aim was to turn the country into the major broker of trade across the Pacific Ocean.
Maybe I never paid attention in school, but I'd never heard of this.