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Date 1990

Event ID 998519

Category Recording

Type Excavation


During the fourth major season at Spynie, excavation was concentrated mainly on the W side of the enclosure within a trench measuring approximately 30m NS by 15m EW. In addition, features within and beyond the E curtain were investigated when rubble was cleared from against the wall's exterior.

Although arch-pointed windows and a fireplace at first floor level of the W curtain indicate that there had been a stone-built W range, excavation failed to uncover further positive evidence of such a building. The construction, at a later date, of two barrel-vaulted cellars adjacent to the W curtain probably accounted for this paucity of information. The S vault, apparently the basement of a free-standing building, measured 7m EW by 5.4m NS. Its roof sprang from the building's N and S walls which were 1.1m to 1.3m wide; in contrast the end walls were a mere 0.5m wide. A secondary partition, with an off-centre doorway, divided the cellar into two rooms of unequal size, the E chamber being only 1.5m wide. Scattered spreads of ash and burnt soil were the only evidence of occupation and broken sandstone flags the only remnants of a floor surface.

Beneath the S wall of the cellar were deposits that may have been associated with the occupation of the W range. Cutting the subsoil below these levels was a pit within which was found an intact ceramic jug of 14th or 15th century date. The cellar was separated from the curtain wall to the W and from another barrel-vaulted basement to the N by an L-shaped passage, 1.4m wide, that linked the courtyard with the basement of 'Davy's Tower'. The passage was floored with cobbles and small flags although most of the flooring was missing from the N side. Built into the floor, alongside the curtain wall, was a V-shaped open drain that debouched through the wall.

In the NW corner of the passage and below its stone floor, was the base of a kiln which was walled with clay bonded rubble and floored with sandstone flags. The other vault, to the immediate N of the passage, was the basement of a building set against the curtain wall and still standing to its second storey on the S and W sides. The N and E walls, however, were completely demolished. Measuring 5.3m NS by 8.5m EW internally, the basement was divided into two chambers by a narrow partition wall. Again, there was little surviving evidence of occupation debris or a floor surface, the level of which was c1m below that of the S vault. Between the two vaults and pre-dating the passage were several large post pits, typically 0.5m in diameter, that may have been associated with an early timber W range. The pits were cut into redeposited subsoil that was used to level the slope that descends northwards towards Spynie Loch.

In the NW corner of the palace enclosure were the fragmentary remains of three stone-lined kilns. Two of the kilns may have been contemporary; the third was definitely earlier. None has been fully excavated. Outside the E curtain, removal of the substantial quantities of rubble from against the exterior face of the E curtain wall revealed several, previously undetected, features within the wall. These included: a splayed gunloop, believed to be of mid-16th century date, at the N end of the E range; a latrine chute to the N of the gunloop; and several constructional alterations that were probably associated with modifications to the interior of the N range. A stone-lined drain with a sloping flagstone base, partially uncovered to the N of the E gate, is thought to have been associated with a latrine at first floor level in the E range. Pre-dating the drain but integrated into its masonry, was a narrow wall that abutted the curtain wall and extended eastwards from it beyond the limit of excavation.

(See DES for plan.)

Sponsor: HBM

J Lewis 1990

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