excavation phase of the Dig Morlaggan project finished late November
2009 and although there are still lots to do in terms of getting
reports written and finds washed and analysed, here is an update of
the progress so far.
report on the 2-week dig wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the
fact that it has been one of the wettest Novembers on record – not
ideal – but despite that, we still managed to accomplish an enormous
amount, with a lot of help from all the volunteers – we had an
incredible 110 people, aged from about 7 to 70, visit the site
during the excavation, about 100 of whom actually dug! These
included children from the local primary school and from 2 Young
Archaeologist Groups, some young people with learning disabilities,
as well as lots of interested adults. A very special thanks, too, to
the National Park volunteers who cleared all the bracken from the
the dig even started.
dig was lead by professional archaeologists – Roddy Regan, Clare
Ellis and Sharon Webb – from Kilmartin House Museum, who managed to
remain cheerful despite the frustrations of trenches full of water,
tents blown away in the wind, temperamental electronic equipment,
difficulties of drawing plans on boards covered in water etc.,
Sometimes it’s easy to get so absorbed in your own trench, that you
lose track of the bigger picture, so here’s a copy of the plan of
the settlement we drew before the excavation started. Most people
were digging in Structure 2, and some in Structure 3. To put it in
context, the ‘yurt’ was beside Structure 5.
aims were to find out a bit more about the layout and ages of the
main buildings, and to see if we could find any evidence of older
buildings on the site. We need to wait for the archaeologists’
report and dating evidence from the huge quantity of finds, but we
can make a few very tentative conclusions…
Structure 2: This was originally divided into 2 sections. The
smaller ‘half’ where the people lived has evidence of a flagstone
floor and possible hearth - these buildings didn’t have chimneys
built into the walls, so probably used ‘hanging lums’. The larger
‘half’ that was probably used to keep animals in looks like it was
used to dump rubbish in when it went out of use – hence the enormous
amount of pottery etc. that came out of there! A small, deeper
trench (called a ‘sondage’) revealed the presence of a hard floor
surface below the one that we excavated down to, which may be the
original floor of the byre. There might be another entrance into the
byre at the bottom right (in the plan). The small structure in the
corner of the ‘human’ half was probably built after the people no
longer lived there, and would have been used to house animals
3: It looks like this went out of use before Structure 2. It was
originally part of a longer building, similar to Structure 2, but
all the large stones that made up the end wall have been removed,
probably to build other things, leaving just the small ‘hart’ stones
behind as a pile of rubble. A new end wall was then built to make
Structure 2 into a smaller building. A hole in the ‘new’ wall might
have been a drain, suggesting that this building was used to keep
animals in. Part of the rubble from this building revealed a broken
rotary quern – possibly from as early as the 16th century. Like
Structure 3, a corner of this building was walled off at a later
date to keep sheep in.
‘main street’: A beautiful cobbled path was uncovered between
Structures 2 and 3, just to prove that the people who lived there
didn’t squelch about in the mud like the team did!
team investigated the slightly odd-looking curve in the wall between
Structures 3 and 5, and although it still isn't clear whether it is
this shape for a particular reason, one of the primary school
children assisting with the dig found the remains of a beautiful
iron cooking pot or cauldron.
likely that most of the pottery and other finds date to the 1800's,
but there may also be earlier
– the cooking pot could potentially be from the 1600's. We’ll need
to wait for experts to look at it all. This fits with the idea that
the buildings went out of use around the late 1800's, early 1900's,
so the items found in these top layers were related to the last
people living there. The actual buildings are hard to precisely
date, as the style didn’t change much over the years, so dating
evidence really has to come from the finds. However, the buildings
could date from the late 1700's, early 1800's.
know that there were people around Morlaggan in the 1500's, so where
did they live?? The archaeologists have identified a couple of
possible sites of earlier buildings, based on the shapes of walls
and the flat areas of ground.
digging has finished, the trenches have been covered over and
consolidated, and once the finds are washed and sorted they will be
sent away to experts who should be able to give us a better idea of
what periods they date to.
to whet your appetite, these are some of the things that were found
Clay pipe with oak-leaf decoration
Part of a rotary quern stone, showing socket for handle
‘Pedestal pot’, for holding eye ointment
Once more information is available, there will be a public
exhibition in the new
Community Village Hall in Arrochar
giving more background to the site, as well as updates on what it
all means, and a display of some of the finds. The archaeologists
will also give a talk about the site and the dig, with the
opportunity for people to ask any questions they may have.
archaeologists and the volunteers are encouraging us to apply for
more funding so that the dig can continue for a second season – in
drier weather. We have been advised that there are still many more
secrets to unearth…. so watch this space!
are also ‘souvenir’ keyrings/pendants and postcards to give to
volunteers, as well as questionnaires to fill in to give us a bit of
feedback about how volunteers felt about the dig.