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Islay, Loch Nan Deala

Crannog (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Islay, Loch Nan Deala

Classification Crannog (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 38124

Site Number NR46NW 5

NGR NR 4253 6881

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/38124

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Killarow And Kilmeny
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR46NW 5 4253 6881

NR 4253 6882 Crannog.

F Celoria 1959; Information from RCAHMS to OS.

This low grass-covered island is situated close to the former sw shore of the partly-drained Loch nan Deala. It is roughy

circular, varying between 23m and 26m in diameter, and there are traces of a rubble causeway 25m in length and 2m

wide linking the island to the original shoreline. The N half of the island is occupied by the remains of two conjoined

drystone buildings (A and B) which together form an overall L-plan bicameral structure, and there is a smaller detached

structure (C) in the SE sector. A 4m length of facing-block on the s side of the island may represent part of either :

fourth building or a perimeter wall. A slight depression in the NW sector appears to mark the position of the main entry.

Building A is oblong on plan measuring 7m axially from NE to SW by 3m transversely within round-angled walls 1m in average thickness. There is a 1.Om-wide doorway in the centre of the SE side-wall, and vestiges of another possible

opening in theSW end-wall.

Building B forms an oblong NW annexe, measuring approximately 5m along the same axis by 3m within round-angled walls varying in thickness between 1.0m and 1.5m. There is an entrance in the s angle.

Building C is a small oblong structure whose internal dimensions are 2.5m from E to W by 2m transversely; the round-angled wall are slightly less than 1m in thickness and there is a narrow entrance in the E wall.

The site has no recorded history, but these remains are of a general type that may tentatively be ascribed to the later medieval or sub-medieval period.

RCAHMS 1984, visited May 1978.

The crannog is land-locked on the west side of a partially drained loch and is visible as a peat and turf-covered stony mound measuring 19.5m WSW-ENE on the line of a causeway to the old shoreline by 21.0m transversely. The causeway, some 22.0m long by 1.5m wide, shows as a track of spaced stones protruding in the peat.

Protruding from beneath the stones of the causeway towards the crannog end, is a length of water-logged timber 0.4m wide and visible for 1.0m of its length. Its position in relation to the stones on the causeway suggest it is contemporary.

Surveyed at 1:10 000

Visited by OS (J M), 3 April 1979.

Located 30m SW of the present shoreline of Loch nan Deala and 26m NE of the loch's former shoreline. The site was accessed from the SW shore by a 3m wide causeway of large boulders, the tops of which were, on average, 0.5m below the upper platform of the artificial island. The water surrounding the site would have been roughly 1m in depth, with deeper 1.5-2m water located behind the site to the NE.

The 0.8m long and 40cm wide timber previously noted by the RCAHMS was rediscovered protruding from the top of the causeway, 3m from the edge of the islet. The timber was firmly embedded in the stone rubble and appeared to be part of the islet's structure. The timber was sampled and discovered to be oak and submitted for radiocarbon dating.

The artificial island is a roughly circular mound of stone, measuring 24.5m in diameter at its base, which has been largely covered by turf and peat. The visible stone appears to be well rounded and of this 80% is too large to be manoeuvred by a single man. The summit of the site is crowned by a fairly level oval platform measuring 20m N-S by 16.5m E-W, which stands 1m above the surrounding loch bed. The S edge of this platform is enclosed by a 10.2m long wall of large stones, 0.5m thick and 0.5m high. This walling degrades to tumble at either end and may be the remains of a perimeter wall. The E half of the upper platform is occupied by the foundation remains of three round-angled buildings previously described by the RCAHMS.

Sponsors: Edinburgh University Archaeology Department, Holley & Associates.

M W Holley 1996.

Activities

Field Visit (24 March 2017)

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.

org/schools-project/).

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)

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