Archaeologists at work

July and August 2004

A team of twenty five archaeologists sponsored by Historic Scotland spent six weeks in July and August investigating two of Lismore’s 14 Iron Age sites. Their work is part of a 3 phase project which started in 2000 and will be completed in 2006. Led by Simon Stoddart and a team from the University of Cambridge they worked alongside archaeologists from the University of Glasgow and experts and volunteers from as far away as the USA.

Argyll has been described as a black hole in terms of Iron Age knowledge and the work will not only help redress this but provide a well documented look at settlement patterns on a small island which can then be compared with other iron age settlements in Scotland. This will add much to the debate about the economy and political developments of fortified settlements over the period 1000BC to 1000AD in Scotland. Lismore was chosen not just because of its many sites but also, being uniquely limestone, any remains are likely to be well preserved.

The work this year centred on the Broch at Tirefour which has a commanding position overlooking Loch Linnhe and gives unrestricted views to the nearest mainland in the south east. Work on the approaches to the Broch produced a 12th century pin, lots of animal bones (pig, deer etc) smoking fires from a possible smith and a metal working area show that this was a very desirable site and the owners would have been keen to display their wealth in cattle and metal work.

The Dun at Park, where they also worked, is also in a very commanding position looking north and west but is at the lower end of the social spectrum. Here they uncovered an early medieval grinding stone, animal remains, shells etc. and speculated that there was possibly some kind of kiln at work.

Investigation of the Broch will continue in the summer of 2005 when they will also be looking at Castle Coeffin Fort (near the later ruined castle) Cill an Suidhe Enclosure, and Sean Dun. In 2006 the analysis and publication of material will be published.

In a very well attended presentation in the hall, the group not only gave an analysis of work in progress but sought local knowledge as, in addition to looking at the prehistoric past, questions will also be asked about what these monuments and their surroundings mean to current inhabitants of Lismore. Altogether a very exciting project of local and national significance.

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