Excavation Research

New project to investigate crannogs in Orkney launched

Next week a team from from the UHI Archaeology Institute will begin the a new project investigating crannogs in Orkney.

Next week a team from from the UHI Archaeology Institute will begin the a new project investigating crannogs in Orkney.

The project focuses on two crannog features at Wasdale Loch, near Finstown on the Orkney Mainland. These artificial platforms, usually of Iron Age date in Scotland, have been found to extend back to the Neolithic in the Western Isles, while in Ireland are mainly medieval in date.

The crannog in the Wasdale Loch with standing building remains evident, described on first edition OS maps as a potential chapel. (Scott Timpany)

Stray finds, including pottery sherds and possible furnace lining, from around one of the crannogs during an initial site visit suggests a possible Early Iron Age construction date. This will be tested through small-scale excavation and test pitting.

The finds also indicate potential later prehistoric settlement and industrial activity may have taken place within this wetland landscape.

It is interesting that the first edition Ordnance Survey maps list this first crannog as the site of a chapel, and this may be what the visible standing remains represent. It will be interesting to see what archaeology reveals about the nature of these remains and whether links can be seen with this site and St Tredwell’s Loch, Papa Westray, where a known chapel was built on top of an Iron Age settlement site.

Perhaps something similar has taken place at Wasdale Loch?

The built causeway to Crannog 1 at Wasdale Loch. Is this a potential medieval causeway associated with the building remains and is there an earlier causeway underneath?

The project also seeks to record a number of post medieval and more recent features in the landscape around Wasdale Loch to look at how more contemporary communities interacted with this environment, particularly in terms of what evidence remains of agricultural activities.

Again, these remains have been little studied across Orkney despite being prominent across the landscapes of all the islands.

Fieldwork for the project begins on Monday, August 8, and runs until Friday, August 19.

Anyone interested in volunteering on the project, or simply wanting to visit the site during the fieldwork, can email Dr Scott Timpany (scott.timpany@uhi.ac.uk) for further details.