Archaeologists at work – 2005

In a packed HHall the team of archaeologists from Cambridge University led by Dr Simon Stoddart gave an update of their work on the Iron Age landscape of the island. With support and grant aid from Historic Scotland, their investigations started in 2000 with comprehensive aerial surveying and will be completed in 2006 with a final publication of their results. Dr Stoddart said Lismore had been chosen as, thanks to its unique limestone, it has a great number of well preserved sites. It also has a friendly and generous community who have not only taken the team to its heart, but offered hospitality and entertainment and a great willingness to participate with insights about the changing landscape. The field work phase began in 2004 with work at the Broch, the Dun at Park and some work at the Fort at Castle Coeffin. In 2005 work continued at the Broch, and further sites were opened at the Cathedral enclosure, Killandrist/Clachen, above St Moluag’s Chair, Castle Coeffin Fort and Bernera Island.

Dr Caroline Malone spoke about the work at the Broch at Tirefuir – the most significant Iron Age site on the island visible for miles – where she has been looking at what lies around the entrance. Her interests are in both conservation of this great monument, so important to present day Lismore, as well as to its changing history and occupation. No work is possible inside the Broch as the weather, sheep, and tourists have greatly weakened what was a very strong structure and she hopes that engineers will recommend that it be shored up so that future generations of Liosachs will be able to appreciate the inspiring structure. She worked on what turned out to be a rather impressive doorway where a large flat bottomed stone was found. In other diggings around the entrance where there was evidence of a dwelling, they found a Neolithic cutting tool of flint which probably came from quite a way and showed the occupants were seafaring, a 1st or 2nd century AD Roman pin perfectly intact and maybe from the Antonine period, a bone spatula and many animal remains mainly cattle but also sheep, pig, red deer, roe deer, dog, goose and some fish. Also a bear phalange which would have come there on a pelt.

David Redhouse then told us about the work on the Dun at Park in 2004 where not a great deal was found bar a rotary quern grinding stone and nearby a great deep mysterious hole, the significance of which they are still working on.

Megan Meredith’s interest lies in the early Medieval and she worked at the Cathedral enclosure where there is a structure within the Cathedral circle which is very close to the old Cathedral entrance. They found an iron arrow head, a thimble (possibly German) and much dressed stone possibly from the Cathedral. She then moved with her team to the Dun near St Moluag's chair where there appears to have been two enclosures side by side which they surmise may be from different periods of occupation

Paul Pattison is a landscape archaeologist who has been looking at the 2-3 kilometres from Castle Coeffin through to Tirefuir and trying to make sense, with the help of detailed and very accurate photography, of the many lines of occupation which dissect each other and show occupation patterns from the earliest times to the present day crofting system. Once analysed this could throw so much light on how Lismore has been worked and occupied and add greatly to the rich appreciation of the present day inhabitants.

Finally Simon talked about pollen analysis samples having been taken from three lochs. And the great wealth of history to be reclaimed there.

Future plans will include trying to get funding for further work on the conservation of the Broch as well as reconstruction of the pollen history which is a much more expensive operation and harder to get funded but with islanders help Simon feels progress can be made in laying bare Lismore’s past and linking it up with the future.

The photographs below show the work being done at the entrance to the Broch.

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