I have had a chance to get a couple of days of snorkelling in at Loch Kinord. There is more diving fieldwork to come over the next week, but I thought I would share a few photos that have come up. Conditions have been quite tough, water temperatures less then 2°C and high winds have limited what we’ve been able to do.
Blurry photo of possible timber at Castle Island, Loch Kinord
Submerged section of Prison Island crannog, Loch Kinord
Lots more work to be done with the data collected, hopefully with discoveries coming up from some careful examination of the photos. Thanks to Seòna, Tim, Robert and Claire for helping out.
On 17-2-15 I was able to sample for radiocarbon dating the logboat fragment and bronze spearhead shaft from the Marishcal College Museum (see [[here]] for some background on these objects). We will have the results in the coming weeks (hopefully sometime in April). Getting C14 dating of these objects holds a lot of potential to add some insight into what we know about the history of Loch Kinord.
The logboat fragment’s date is a particular mystery. Logboats were used in Scotland for an incredibly long time, from the Mesolithic (beginning 8-10 thousand years ago) through the medieval period (ending about 400 years ago). They represent some of the only water craft in the archaeological record for much of Scottish prehistory, although it is a pretty safe bet that other types of water craft were used but don’t survive. At least four logboats have been found in Loch Kinord; one was found in the 1960s by some divers, but has not been seen again since. The other three were discovered in the 19th century. The fragment in the collection comes from the logboat that was known at the ‘Royal Yacht’, and it measured over 9 metres long when first discovered. Only the small fragment pictured below survives. Not a single boat from Loch Kinord has been dated by any means. The date will be interesting no matter the result, but it would be especially interesting for my research if it were to date to periods of known activity at Prison and Castle Islands – 9th-10th century AD.
The shaft of the Bronze Spearhead is also an interesting object to date. If the shaft is contemporary with the spearhead (ie. Bronze Age), it would belong to a small group of Bronze Age metalwork that has organic elements of the original object surviving. Bronze Age metalwork is fairly well-known in Scotland through numerous hoard discoveries, other stray finds and well-contextualised excavated material. This material has been extensively studied and typologies have been established that relatively tightly date Bronze Age metalwork. Adding a C14 date to the established typology can continue to test and refine those typologies. For the landscape at Loch Kinord, the forthcoming C14 date will add further data for activity in, on and around the loch, building up information for the history of this place.
Ray’s rig for sample taking.
A big thank you goes to Caroline and Ray who were so helpful in taking the samples, and also thanks to Neil Curtis, Marishcal College Museum Curator, for granting permission. Funding for the C14 dates has been generously provided by the Aberdeen Humanities Fund.
The weather of the past few days here in Aberdeen has hinted that Spring is not too distant. It is so often archaeologically invisible, but even in modern times, where we benefit from climate controlled everything, changing seasons guide, shape and organise our lives. The ordering of life that seasonality places on a mostly or wholly agrarian society would be difficult to overstate. Throw in the foibles of changing weather year to year, month to month and day to day and it is easy to see how whole cosmologies developed around seasonal cycles. But within the discipline of archaeology seasons are not regularly discussed, and where they are, seasons tend to be discussed within works dedicated to addressing archaeology and seasonality specifically. This must stem from the fact that detecting archaeological evidence for seasonality is not always present or immediately obvious, and if possible at all, normally requires specific scientific analyses.
Castle Island, Loch Kinord from the north shore.
With respect to crannogs we can imagine that different seasons would have played a large part in daily life on a crannog, and may have been (as some have argued) the very reason they were constructed and occupied in the first place. It is difficult to imagine living on a crannog in highland Scotland through the winter. Out on the water is an exposed place, and doubly so in a crannog if you accept the idea that they were originally free-standing pile dwellings (ie. without the benefit of having ground, artificial or otherwise, beneath your habitation). This has led some to suggest that crannogs were only occupied in warmer months, but there is not yet widespread evidence for seasonal occupation. However, it is an attractive hypothesis that crannogs were occupied seasonally given just how cold it must be to occupy such a location through Scottish winters in the past (or indeed in the present).
Prison Island, Loch Kinord from the east shore.
Another idea has been proposed that suggests climactic downturns may have played a role in the construction and occupation of crannogs. Anne Crone compiled every radiocarbon date available from crannog sites in Scotland (this book chapter is freely available [[here]]), and she noted that there appears to be clustering of the radiocarbon dates at times which coincide with periods of deteriorating climate. This idea makes less intuitive sense as a wetter and colder climate would possibly make crannogs a less appealing habitation. But if we put aside personal comfort, it was perhaps the stresses that a deteriorating climate put on groups of people that necessitated building a crannog. If this is the case and crannogs were built in response to periods of colder and wetter climate, the reasons why building a crannog was necessary remain an intriguing question. Whether or not crannogs were occupied seasonally is perhaps less important than realising that all of Iron Age and Early Medieval society (crannog dwellers included) would have had their lives impacted and shaped by changing seasons. In a society where agriculture was the work of the vast majority of people seasons and seasonality are critical elements of everyday life.