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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 818657

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/event/818657

NR77NE 10 7512 7679

(NR 7512 7680) Cave (NAT)

OS 6" map, Argyllshire, 2nd ed., (1924)

St Columba's Cave: There is a strong local tradition that St Columba came here on his way to Dunadd and Iona. The main cave has a shelf on its E side on which is built a drystone altar, with above it on the rock a small cross with an expanded shaft, another to N marked by five pits in the rock, and still further N, a faint cross only visible in certain lights. Beam-holes in the W wall of the cave suggest a lean-to roof to protect the altar. An oval rock-basin is in the floor of the shelf near the altar. The cave was cleared up at the end of last century. Excavations are currently being carried out here.

Two shallow graves, containing extended inhumations, lying E-W, have been found at the foot of the bank outside the cave, and against the foundation of a boulder wall. A "stone coffin", containing an inhumation, is reported to have been found inside the main cave in the 19th century 'excavation', but no information is available as to size or depth in cave-deposit. Material of all periods from the Mesolithic has been found during the current excavations. Now at Kilberry, it is to be given to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland [NMAS] at the end of the work. A stone basin, now the font at Achahoish parish church (NR 781 776) is said to have come from this cave.

A small cave to the W has entrance steps and bar-holes, indicating use as a dwelling. A quartz block at rear has been used as a polisher or strike-a-light.

The cave was excavated several years ago to the depth of 3 1/2' by the proprietor (Donaldson 1930).

M Campbell and M Sandeman 1964; M E M Donaldson 1930.

Excavations caried out since 1959 by the Mid-Argyll Arch Soc have discovered occupation levels to at least 3 1/2 feet below the remaining surface, ie a total depth of 8 feet; as well as recovering many unstratified small finds from the 19th century spoil-heap. These include a Viking-type, 8-9th century, bronze balance, and Samian ware; and a midden whose upper levels contained 12-14th century pottery. The material from the spoil-heap has now been returned to the cave bringing the floor up to its mid-19th century level - a process which has exposed at the mouth of the cave a cross-wall with entrance and doorstep. A thin surface of broken schist covers the areas above and below this wall, and may mark the base of the 19th century tip. Iron slag protruding through this surface suggests a post-medieval lay use of the site.

M Campbell 1959; M Campbell 1962; M Campbell 1973; M Campbell 1975.

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