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Title: Crannogs in north-east Scotland : understanding the resource
Author: Stratigos, Michael J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 1928
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2017
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Crannogs are artificial island dwellings known in Scotland and Ireland. They are an enigmatic, but important, part of the archaeological record in Scotland dating from as early as the Neolithic and in use as late as just a few hundred years ago. These sites hold immense archaeological potential in their well-preserved waterlogged and submerged contexts in lochs (lakes). This thesis has examined crannogs in north-east Scotland, a region where no modern investigation of crannogs has taken place. Although crannogs are normally considered an underwater archaeology, much of what we know about them comes from work carried out on drained sites. Therefore, a key question of this thesis has been to quantify the impacts of historic loch drainage, in shaping the existing record of crannogs in the study area. Through historic map analysis, the thesis demonstrates how 18th and 19th century loch drainage has been the defining element in the creation of the archaeological record in lake environments in north-east Scotland, most notably impacting crannogs. Moreover, the quantification of historic drainage has also strongly suggested that the different histories of drainage across Scotland have shaped the trajectory of crannog research, further exacerbating the existing focus in crannog research on sites in western Scotland. A major result of this research has been to investigate areas of loch drainage and suggest new likely and possible crannogs that have been misidentified as terrestrial site types. The data quantifying historic loch drainage also has revealed important patterns in Improvement period land-use changes that have hitherto been unrecognised. This thesis establishes a dataset for crannogs in north-east Scotland that builds a framework for understanding their preservation, morphology, chronology and distribution. In testing a newly identified possible crannog site, the Houff, Aberdeenshire, the results of this thesis have demonstrated a proof-of-concept that misidentified crannogs can be found in areas of loch drainage. Along with a number of further newly identified sites, it is argued that the distribution of crannogs across Scotland is far more uniform than previously considered. Furthermore, the results of the fieldwork in these areas suggests that crannogs in north-east Scotland have been severely damaged by 18th and 19th century drainage programmes, and at a higher rate than other regions of Scotland, notably the south-west. Better preserved crannog sites were also targeted for evaluative excavation such as the Loch of Leys crannog, Aberdeenshire. Excavation here revealed evidence for phases of use of this site in the Roman Iron Age and in the 9th-10th century AD in addition to its historically attested use as a medieval lordly dwelling in the 12th-15th centuries AD. The best preserved crannog sites in north-east Scotland at Loch Kinord, Aberdeenshire were also targeted to build this baseline of data on the artificial islands of the study area. Underwater survey and sampling of the organic structural components of the crannogs has revealed evidence for use of Castle Island in Early Iron Age and also in the 10th century AD. Excavation on the interior of the island demonstrated good evidence for its use as a motte-type castle from the 11th-12th centuries AD. At Prison Island, Loch Kinord timber elements and occupational deposits on the crannog were dated to the 8th-9th century AD and the 12th century AD. This contemporaneous activity at both Castle and Prison Island is paralleled at various crannog sites across the country. Using the newly established dataset, discussion on how north-east Scottish crannogs fit within wider frameworks for the understanding of crannogs more widely is undertaken. This focuses on the main descriptive themes which have concerned most previous research on crannogs. Importantly, this work in north-east Scotland has revealed evidence that suggests crannogs are more ubiquitous than previously considered and appear across Scotland from the Early Iron Age rather than seeing a western phenomenon adopted latterly in the east. Dating evidence recovered from crannogs in north-east Scotland from the 9th-10th centuries AD fills a previously noted lacuna in crannog construction which demonstrates a further reason why crannog research cannot only focus on limited geographical regions. More interpretative frameworks for how we might understand crannogs are explored in the discussion following lines of evidence thrown up by the newly created dataset for crannogs in north-east Scotland. These include a discussion of the conceptual origins of crannogs and their role in wider social networks and settlement landscapes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Aberdeen Humanities Fund ; Society of Antiquaries of Scotland ; Archaeology Service for Aberdeenshire ; Moray ; Angus and Aberdeen City Councils
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Lake-dwellers and lake-dwellings