Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Archaeology of Dun Mhurchaidh

The archaeologists of the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project are nearing the end of their annual three week visit to Swordle. As well as test-pitting in the fields around Swordle itself, they have been working on the same site on the spine of Dun Mhurchaidh as they did last year, except this time they've opened up a much more extensive trench, removing the two stone platforms they'd previously excavated - see post here.

Under one of these they found hazelnut shells - which may sound unimportant except that these shells can give excellent radiocarbon dates.

Lead archaeologist Ollie Harris admits that it's been a complex site to work on, and that interpreting what they've found hasn't been easy. There is plenty of evidence along the ridge of metal working - they've found hammer and burnishing stones - but, as they've worked downwards, it seems that what they are finding is a site which was only occasionally occupied, perhaps during the summer, and may have had a variety of craft industries rather than just metalworking.

The area the students were digging was covered by some sort of building, with its nearer wall along the natural rock 'foundation' in the foreground. It was elongate, and had an entrance to the left, the landward side.

The most intriguing aspect of the site is that it would have been visible for miles, both inland and out to sea as far as the Small Isles, so they must have had very good reason for such deliberate, and perhaps risky exposure.

Much more will be learned once they have all their data on computer and can draw all the evidence together. This picture shows the level of detail in which they have worked - there's a trowel for scale.  This is a cross-section of some sort of trench which ran along the west side of the building and then turned towards the entrance area, and was later infilled by a darker material

We look forward to welcoming members of the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project back to Swordle next year.

The ATP website is here.

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