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Field Visit

Date 24 March 2017

Event ID 1039029

Category Recording

Type Field Visit


NR 4253 6881 This project was designed to support the schools to undertake their own archaeological fieldwork on Islay. Each school ‘adopted’ a monument in their vicinity, with Jura children joining in with Keills Primary School on Islay. The children worked with a team of professional archaeologists to undertake site surveys. They were

introduced to several archaeological recording techniques and were asked to think about the landscape, and how it might have changed over time. In May 2017 the schools held a joint exhibition in the Gaelic College, which championed the children’s achievements and creations, some of which are featured on the Islay Heritage website (http://islayheritage.


The crannog on now mostly drained Loch nan Deala was first discovered by Islay Archaeological Survey Group in 1959 and then surveyed by the Royal Commission in 1978. The RCAHMS’ plan was published with the wrong orientation, but it noted correctly the remains of three stone-built

structures, which they interpreted as late medieval or post-medieval

buildings. In 1996 the site was resurveyed by Mark W Holley (DES 1996) as part of his thesis on the artificial islet settlements in the Inner Hebrides. He sampled an oak timber that protruded from the causeway for radiocarbon dating and this produced a date of 5205–4800 BC (Holley 2000). Holley concluded that the site was probably most similar to the Early Neolithic settlement at Eilean Domhnuill on Loch Olabhat on N Uist, excavated by Ian Armit.

Pupils from Keills Primary School, Islay, and Small Isles Primary School, Jura, helped with the survey of the crannog with several different archaeological techniques on 24 March 2017. The islet and the structures upon it were surveyed digitally for the first time. Detailed topographic survey revealed that there may have been two different causeways, probably built at different times. This might correspond with two distinct phases that can be postulated from the electrical resistance survey. The resistivity plot suggests that a smaller islet, c15m in diameter, containing two conjoined structures and accessed by a long thin stone-built causeway

was an earlier phase of the monument. This islet was than enlarged to c25m in diameter, which subsumed some of the original causeway still visible in the resistance plot. A third small structure was added in one part of this enlarged space. Both islet phases were kerbed with stone, which helped the resistance survey, but only the earlier causeway was clearly

visible, which might suggest that a later causeway seen in the topographic survey may have been built from turf. Overall, the survey results have revealed further complexity to this remarkable site, which needs further exploration by excavation in order to establish true structural phasing,

chronology and the use of the site.

Archive and report: NRHE

Funder: Ian Mactaggart Trust

Darko Maricevic, Alexandra Knox, Robert Fry, Sarah Lambert-Gates and Steven Mithen – Islay Heritage

(Source: DES, Volume 18)

People and Organisations