Excavation at the Gardiebane Peninsula

Last week (2/3/15-6/3/15) I, together with a small team, excavated at the Gardiebane Peninsula (click [[here]] for the Canmore record) located on the south shore of Loch Kinord. This place has been known as an archaeological site since the middle of the 19th century, with two curving ditches and banks. It resembles, and perhaps could be analogous to, coastal promontory forts like the one at Burghead on the Moray coast. Gardiebane Peninsula is much more modest in its size, but its potential connection to a wider archaeological landscape in and around Loch Kinord makes it a very interesting site to target. However, establishing that connection is not straightforward, although gaining dating evidence from Gardiebane that aligns with other dating evidence at Kinord (ie. Castle Island (10th c. AD) and Prison Island (9th c. AD) would be a good start.

Excavating inner bank and ditch

Excavating inner bank and ditch

In order to obtain some dating information we opened a 3x1m trench in the lower ditch and bank. The goal was to find some organic material that would be suitable for radiocarbon dating from within the ditch. However, as can be seen in some of the photographs below, the ditch turned out to be very clean. There was only a single identifiable fill, and it is possible, if not likely, that the ditch was re-dug at some relatively recent date and used as a field boundary or drainage ditch. This may also explain the well laid walling that was present in our trench. The jury is still out on whether that wall is some late addition to the bank and ditch earthworks or if it represents an original or early facing to the inside of ditch. Regardless, the date of the wall, the ditch and the bank is likely to remain unknown given that there was so little material that came from within the ditch. There is some hope left, samples were taken of the fill of the ditch and it is possible that upon further examination some small organic material might be found that can be radiocarbon dated.

Gardiebane Trench 1

Gardiebane trench through outer bank.

Befuddled by the trench in the outer bank and ditch, it was decided that a trench should be dug on the inner bank and ditch. This trench was placed immediately up from the first trench, but the results were sadly very similar to the outer bank and ditch. There was next to nothing from within the ditch fill that would be diagnostic or organic and usable in radiocarbon dating. However, upon sectioning through the bank two very small artefacts were found, a tiny piece of iron and a very small lump of what is probably slag. As these were found below the bank we can assume the bank is at least Iron Age in date (not unsurprising or particularly refined chronology). Just under the bank, there is what might be a deposit representing the former land surface. This deposit was sampled and we hope that in the sample something organic might turn up suitable for radiocarbon dating.


Gardiebane trench through inner bank and ditch.

Possible land surface where the iron and slag were found.

Possible land surface where the iron and slag were found.

Thanks to everyone who helped me out with this excavation, Joe T., Claire, Joe O. and Oskar. I will be sure to update very soon on the outcome of the sampling and flotation. The excavations were ultimately somewhat disappointing in terms of the artefactual remains, however, there is still some hope that good dating evidence will result from the work. Should this be forthcoming, we can begin to reveal much about the settlement landscape of Loch Kinord.

Funding for the excavation was provided by the Aberdeen Humanities Fund.