Scottish Crannogs: underwater excavation of artificial islands with special reference to Oakbank Crannog, Loch Tay
Dixon, Thomas Nicholas
Crannogs are artificial islands found in Scottish and Irish lochs. They were built as early as the late Bronze Age and inhabited as late as the post-Mediaeval Period. Examinations, surveys and excavations were carried outq mainly on drained sites, in the nineteenth century. In the long term the ýarly work has been neglected and the few rescue excavations from the twentieth century have added little to the general view. This study examines the shortcomings and problems of past research on Scottish crannogs and explains why the time is now right for further studies. Past excavators indicated the excellent state of preservation of organic materials on the waterlogged sites. They ranged from textiles to timbers and if subjected to rigorous study using modern archaeological techniques a great deal of important information, not available from dry sitesp could become available. The social conditions and lifestyle of past groups and communities and their domestic, agricultural and industrial skills may be seen with greater clarity. The relationship between local contemporary groups may be examined and wider regional contacts and influences become clearer. The archaeological implications of draining totally waterlogged sitesp the damage caused and the ensuing difficulties of excavation are compared with the benefits and disadvantages of excavation underwater. In 1979 a survey of the crannogs in Loch Tay was carried out to establish the number of sites in the loch, the interrelationship of sites and their place in the landscape. The form and quality of the remains were recorded with the ultimate aim of establishing the suitability of a site for excavation. The first underwater excavation of a crannog commenced in 1980 and the three seasons of work carried out so far are discussed. The results have confirmed the excellent state of preservation of environmental and archaeological materialp as indicated by past work, and this thesis reports the technical feasibilityl financial viability and archaeological value of excavating crannogs underwater.