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Gleann Geal

Bog Butter, Keg (Wood)

Site Name Gleann Geal

Classification Bog Butter, Keg (Wood)

Alternative Name(s) Glen Gell; Glen Gill

Canmore ID 85530

Site Number NM75SE 1

NGR NM 76 53

NGR Description NM c. 76 53

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Morvern
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Lochaber
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NM75SE 1 c. 76 53

See NM75SW 12 for alternative location.

A wooden keg containing bog butter was found during peat cutting at the N end of Glen Gell (Gleann Geal?), Morvern. A radiocarbon date of 1802 +/- 35bp (UB-3185) was obtained from the contents of the keg. In Royal Museum of Scotland (ME 166/ SHC 1).

W I Macadam 1882; C Earwood 1992

In May 1879 a keg of bog butter was discovered in a slanting position at a depth of 4'6"' (1.4m) during peat-digging at the N end of Gleann Geal, Glen Gill or Glen Gell, and possibly in the extensive area of peat-banks around NM 765 537. The keg was donated to the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (now the Royal Museum of Scotland), and is stored under accession number NMS SHC 1 (having formerly been numbered ME 166 and SH 1).

The body of the keg has been worked from a solid trunk or large branch of alder (formerly identified as birch) to form a cylindrical body with slightly barrel-shaped sides. It measures 2' (0.6m) in height and 1'4?" (0.4m) in diameter. Two perforated lugs project to a height of 4" (102mm) above opposite sides of the upper rim and the published illustration also depicts two perforated lugs on opposite sides of the body. Both the lid and bottom of the keg fitted into grooves; the former was 'partly hollowed into a basin shape' and was perforated to allow the lugs to project. The lid (which cannot be identified in the collections) has probably been slightly domed and is illustrated as bearing adze-marks. It had a rectangular slit on one side (to retain one of the lugs), but it is unclear whether there was a slit or a recess on the opposite side.

The keg has recently been the subject of extensive conservation, including the partial epoxy reconstruction of the base, which has evidently been formed from a piece of wood larger than the body which has been so carved as to form a collar which was revealed during conservation to have been retained by small wooden pegs or dowels set into holes in the main body of the object. Internally, the workmanship is generally crude, the bottom of the vessel being uneven and having numerous marks which are probably of natural origin rather than toolmarks. Gouge marks in the exterior have presumably been made at the time of discovery.

The capacity of the vessel was apparently about 75 litres. Bog butter was found completely filling the interior, the upper surface of the mass being domed. Radiocarbon assay of a sample of this material has yielded a determination of 148 +/- 35 ad (UB-3185), which determination may be calibrated to between about 183 and 226 cal AD.

W I Macadam 1882; J Ritchie 1941; C Earwood 1992; C Earwood 1993; A Crone 1993; NMS accession register: typescript continuation catalogue; R J C Mowat 1996, visited November 1994.

Location cited as NM 70 50. Radiocarbon determination (UB-3185) cited as 120-329 AD.

NMRS, MS/996/1.


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