First Iron Age ‘loch village’ discovered in Scotland

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The remains of an Iron Age ‘loch village’ have been discovered in south west Scotland.

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During a small-scale excavation of what was initially thought to be a crannog in the now-infilled Black Loch of Myrton, archeologists found a settlement of at least seven houses.

AOC Archaeology Group, which worked on the dig along with local volunteers, discovered evidence of multiple structures making up a small village.

What appeared before excavation to be one of a small group of mounds transpired to be a massive stone hearth complex at the centre of a roundhouse.

The timber structure of the house has been preserved, with beams radiating out from the foundation.

The village, which covers an area 60m in diameter, is the first of its kind to be found in Scotland.

The site has been radiocarbon dated to two phases of activity: one in the middle of the first millennium BC, perhaps in the 5th century BC, and the other in the last two centuries BC.

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Graeme Cavers of AOC Archaeology, co-director of the site, said: “What is so exciting about this site is the fact that it has the potential to tell us how everyday buildings in Iron Age Scotland were furnished and used, how they were repaired and rebuilt and even what activities took place in different parts of each building.

“In Iron Age archaeology, for the most part we deal with dried out and decayed roundhouses that preserve very little of the original structure – generally only a few post holes or occasionally a hearth will survive.

“At Black Loch of Myrton we have the posts that held up the building, as well as the reeds and branches used to floor and furnish the structure.

“The fact that the land was abandoned after the Iron Age and not ploughed for agriculture in the way that most sites were means that the buildings are very well preserved – even the hearth stood to almost a metre in height and had evidence of three phases of rebuilding.

“Waterlogged wood also offers the opportunity to date the structure very accurately using dendrochronology – or tree ring counting – to give a date accurate to within a few years or even months, rather than the decades or centuries usually provided by radiocarbon dating.”

Mr Cavers added: “We found a few fragments of a quern stone – used for grinding grain – as well as some fragments of pottery.

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“Although these aren’t too spectacular of themselves, they tell us that the site was probably a domestic one and that the remains of everyday life are likely to be found there. Pottery is extremely rare in Iron Age Wigtownshire, so this may be an indication of how well preserved the site is.”