Loch of the Clans, a 1st century AD crannog

New radiocarbon dates from the Loch of the Clans crannog excavation carried out in March 2017 are now available. Excitingly, they have shown that the crannog probably dates from the 1st century AD. This marks the second crannog in north-east Scotland to demonstrate evidence for use from the early part of the first millennium AD – the other being the recently excavated Loch of Leys crannog <HERE>.

The Loch of the Clans crannog was excavated by Dr John Grigor in the 1860s after the loch was drained about 30 years before. His excavation trench was immediately evident on the site. We think his trench, essentially hollowed out the centre of the crannog. The preservation of the crannog was not as good as hoped. The organic material that had once made up this crannog, and that Grigor had described, has now decayed and turned into a dark rich organic layer that sits on the natural lake sediments below.

Curiously, the Loch of the Clans crannog is relatively small. Most crannogs are at least 30m in diameter with some reaching as much as 60m (and a few more with later medieval occupation extend over 100m in diameter). Loch of the Clans meanwhile extends only about 20m across.

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 12.18.01

Stratigraphy at the Loch of the Clans crannog

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 12.18.16

Radiocarbon dates from the crannog mound.


This small size might suggest, along with the two radiocarbon dates that are virtually identical, that the site was used over the course of a relatively short period of time. Most crannogs that have been radiocarbon dated show evidence for periodic construction and occupation phases separated by many centuries. The 2017 excavations carried out were not nearly extensive enough to confidently propose just a single phase of use at the Loch of Clans, but it would a good model to test with further work there.

The excavation was carried out with financial support from the Findlay Harris Dick Prize for Pictish Research, administered by the University of Aberdeen Development Trust. Thanks go to the Kilravock Estate and Chapman Lowry for kind permission to conduct the work. Finally, thanks to Juliette Mitchell and Lindsey Paskulin for their volunteer help excavating.