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Date 1 January 1997 - 31 December 1998

Event ID 546250

Category Recording

Type Excavation


NJ 998 675 Four weeks of excavations were carried out in the basement during 1997 and 1998, with the objective of revealing the primary mid-16th-century floor surfaces and elucidating the architectural sequence.

The construction, inside the castle, of the first lighthouse in northern Scotland in the 1820s by Robert Stevenson had severely truncated the medieval deposits. However, remnants of the primary occupation surfaces were revealed in all rooms of the basement, although it appears the majority of occupation-derived debris has been removed, probably during the conversion of the castle to a lighthouse. Very few artefacts were recovered from the medieval deposits, although a 1612 twopence and a bone-handled iron awl were recovered from an early pit. Animal and fish bone predominates, supporting the use of the western vault as a kitchen.

The arrangement of the basement has been altered on several occasions during its use. The lighthouse builders removed the southern part of the eastern vault and the original staircase to the first floor alongside the S wall. It appears the spiral staircase to the first floor is a later insertion, and it is also of note that this stair is not on the same alignment as the spiral stair in the upper storeys. A small lobby at the base of the original staircase, which ran down to the western vault, originally provided access to the eastern vault. This doorway was blocked by the lighthouse builders, as was another doorway between the E and W vaults, although the second opening was not in itself an original feature.

The surviving archaeological deposits give a clear picture of the sequence of architectural alterations, but unfortunately very little pottery was found to date these events.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

F Baker 1998.

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