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Tarbat Discovery Programme

NH 914 839 Four further seasons of archaeological excavation were undertaken at the site of St Colman's Church, Portmahomack, during the summers of 2002 to 2005 inclusive (DES 2001, 64-5, PSAS 134, 2004, 183-200, Med Archaeol 48, 2004, 1-30). The 2002 to 2004 seasons saw the completion of the southern area of excavation, specifically the investigation of the 'bag-shaped' building and associated features. A radiocarbon date from the hearth of the building returned a date in the 18th century, and a nearby structure, reported previously as a souterrain, was revealed to be a wood-lined well.

Between 2003 and 2005, the investigations of the layout and character of the craftworking area to the N of the site continued. During the 2003 season, the central road was found to have been flanked by a stone-built flue and culvert, associated with a succession of large road-side ditches. To the E of the road, evidence for non-ferrous metalworking was revealed, in the form of clay- and stone-built hearths, associated with an assemblage of crucibles, moulds, metal droplets and stone tools. The craftworking area is situated on a terrace adjacent to the mill dam, and evidence for a burnt wattle revetment, associated with a site-wide fire, was excavated. Stratigraphic evidence suggested that metalworking had occurred both before and after the major episode of burning across the craftworking zone.

To the W of the road, work continued in the leatherworking area, and in 2005 the remains of a turf- and timber-built structure with associated yard and tanning area were defined. A stone-built hearth was excavated inside the structure, and thought to relate to leatherworking.

In the northern part of the craftworking zone, excavation of a rectangular feature revealed a long cist, containing the well preserved remains of an adult male, orientated W-E.

The project archive is currently in the care of the Department of Archaeology, University of York, the NMS and Field Archaeology Specialists Ltd, York. All finds are reported to the Treasure Trove Advisory Panel, and all excavated material has been awarded to the NMS. Data Structure Reports for 2003, 2004 and 2005 have been deposited with the NMR and with Historic Scotland, and can be found online at uk/depts/arch/staff/sites/tarbat.

Sponsor: National Museums of Scotland, Historic Scotland, Ross and Cromarty Enterprise, University of York.

M Carver and C Spall 2005