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18 September 2014
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Scottish Crannogs

By Barrie Andrian
Oakbank Crannog

Image of the underwater timbers
Underwater timber remains ©
Scotland has more than 30,000 lochs large enough to contain crannogs. Systematic surveys revealed that the highest concentrations of crannogs were in Loch Awe, Argyll, with 20 sites, and in Loch Tay, Perthshire, with 18 crannogs. A survey of Loch Tay in 1979 led to the decision to focus on the Oakbank Crannog, the easternmost of two crannogs off the village of Fearnan, on the north side of the loch.

'... it was the only site where the timber stumps of a walkway survived ...'

The first ever underwater excavation of a crannog began in 1980, at Oakbank Crannog. It was chosen because it was the only site where the timber stumps of a walkway survived and organic remains were visible before excavation.

The radiocarbon date of 595BC+/-60 placed it approximately in the transition period between the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages. Logistically it afforded good access and camping provision for a small dive team. This is where the underwater search for clues about the ancient loch-dwellers began, and teams have carried out periodic excavation there, and in other lochs, ever since.

Oakbank is a wholly submerged, large stony mound, with what appears to be an annexe, or smaller mound, attached at its western extremity. The stones are heavy and covered with slippery green algae, which makes them difficult to handle. As the rock removal is a laborious task only small areas are ‘opened’ or exposed at any one time. Part of the site is still shrouded in this stone mantle.

Published: 2005-01-25

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