Daily discoveries being made at Clachtoll Broch
The following is a media release sent out on Monday 4 September 2017
A community archaeology project that is conserving and excavating the broch at Clachtoll, in Assynt, Sutherland, is now finding Iron Age artifacts on a daily basis. Hundreds of tonnes of rubble have been removed from the interior of the building and the deposits underneath are now being revealed for the first time in two thousand years. The finds include nine lamps, various iron and copper alloy objects, stone tools including a knocking stone and quern for preparing grain, a large assemblage of pottery, animal bones and huge amounts of charcoal.
Gordon Sleight, Chairman of Historic Assynt, said, ‘Being down to the demolition and occupation layers at last means we are now making some really exciting finds – charred matting, wood and grain, a complex hearth, metal and bone pins, quite a few pieces of corroded iron which x-rays may be able to identify, stone lamps or bowls. pottery, antler and bone, spindle whorls, grain processing equipment (knocking stone and quern stones) and various other stone tools. They are all the sorts of things that might be expected on a broch site but several are in particularly good condition. This wealth of finds when combined with the detailed analysis of the many samples taken from the charcoal, ash, clay and other material from the occupation layers will eventually enable us to tell quite a story about the people who used and lived in the broch two thousand years ago, people whose direct descendants could still be living in Assynt.’
The ruins of hundreds of brochs remain around the Scottish coastline, but few have as much intact structure as Clachtoll broch, and even fewer have an undisturbed interior. The Clachtoll broch is therefore an important archaeological monument. The people who built it were part of a maritime culture stretching up to the Northern Isles and out to the Hebrides at a time prior to the Roman conquest of southern Britain. The detailed conservation work of the masonry of the broch is helping archaeologists to understand the sophisticated engineering involved in building the huge double-walled tower, which would have stood up to 14 metres (40 feet) high. The excavation has revealed chambers and a staircase between the inner and outer circular walls. The archaeologists believe a major fire marked the end of occupation of the site, and that this was followed shortly after by a catastrophic collapse sometime between 150BC and 50AD. Everything now being discovered underneath the rubble is therefore likely to date from before this time.
Graeme Cavers, the lead archaeologist at the dig at Clachtoll said, ‘The conservation works being carried out at the broch have brought some truly remarkable archaeological layers to light. It is very unusual to find intact Iron Age occupation layers sealed by a destruction event. It seems that the people who lived at Clachtoll left in a hurry, meaning that we have something close to a snapshot of daily life in the middle Iron Age of Assynt.’
The archaeology project, from July to September 2017, is organised by Historic Assynt, a local community organisation. With the assistance of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Historic Assynt raised around £500,000 to enable the dig to go ahead. The project is part of the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership of which the Scottish Wildlife Trust is the lead partner. Funding has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, SSE’s Sustainable Development Fund, The Pilgrim Trust, Highland Council through the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund and individual donors.
The dig is open to the public, with volunteers and visitors welcome at any time between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Saturday, until 30 September. No experience is required and there will be things to do for all abilities. Informative events are happening throughout the project, including guided walks from Clachtoll rangers hut every Monday at 2pm and finds workshops in Stoer Hall every Wednesday afternoon at 1.30pm. A corbelling workshop built an otter holt on site and some other Iron Age sites in Assynt will be explored during September. After initial excavation and protection of the broch in summer 2017, there will be research into the archaeological finds over the winter and further consolidation and interpretation activities in 2018.
For more information contact:
Gordon Sleight, Phone: 01571 855207, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or see the website at http://clachtoll.aocarchaeology.com
or the Historic Assynt Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/historicassynt/
or the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape website: www.coigach-assynt.org