by: Anne Crone & Ewan Campbell
The early medieval crannog in Loch Glashan was excavated in 1960 by Jack Scott, in advance of dam construction. Originally interpreted as a domestic settlement, the crannog produced a rich organic assemblage of wood and leather objects, as well as exotic items such as Continental imported pottery and a brooch studded with amber. Tantalising glimpses of this assemblage have appeared in publications over the years, but, for the first time, all the evidence from the crannog has been drawn together and re-examined. New radiocarbon dates, together with datable artefacts, suggest a complex chronology for the crannog, with activity throughout much of the 1st millennium AD. This extended chronology is at odds with the scant structural remains, which display little evidence of the refurbishment and repair that one might expect had the crannog been occupied for hundreds of years. This apparent conflict is examined, raising general questions about the taphonomy and post-depositional history of crannogs. A new explanation is put forward, suggesting that the visible stratigraphy is the result of a complex sequence of erosion due to the effects of wind and water movement, eroding and dispersing deposits and artefacts.
Re-examination of the artefact assemblage, which comprises the bulk of the evidence from Loch Glashan, has provided many new insights, perhaps the most significant of which is the identification of a leather satchel that may have held books, the oldest surviving example of a type known to have been used by early monks. Its presence on the crannog is puzzling but other artefactual evidence, together with its location, suggests that the crannog may have had a non-domestic function, possibly as a craftworkers’ site where leather was worked and exotic items for the aristocratic elite of the early medieval kingdom of Dal Riata were produced.
The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland gratefully acknowledges funding towards the publication of this volume from Historic Scotland.