Over 80 members and guests attended the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society’s meeting on 10th February to hear Dr. Graeme Cavers of the AOC Archaeology Group speak on the recent archaeological excavation of the early Iron Age loch village at Black Loch of Myrton near Monreith, Wigtownshire.
An earlier project at Cults Loch near Castle Kennedy revealed two crannogs in the loch. Excavation revealed a very good state of wood preservation, although the two structures were initially difficult to identify. Each building had central hearth mounds, but these were not so well preserved. A number of artefacts appeared to have been deliberately buried below the floors; these included a carved wooden box and a wooden ard or early plough share. Dendrochronological analysis of the structural timber indicated the buildings were occupied in the mid-5th century BC.
The site at Black Loch was rediscovered while work at Cults Loch was finishing. The farmer reported the find to Stranraer Museum, and the site was investigated. Black Loch is little more than a shallow wetland during winter; nearby White Loch is a substantial body of water with one known crannog.
Firstly, a topographic survey was undertaken, which revealed several raised mounds, now known to be the central hearths of timber round houses.
The latest excavations were in 2016, when a trench was excavated from the centre of the site to the periphery. A wooden palisade marked the limit of the site, and a further building was found adjacent to it. Within this was another hearth, but with evidence of a clay domed oven built on a framework of wicker. The worked timbers from the site provide evidence of the types of woodworking tools in use. It is clear that different types of axes were used on different types and sizes of wood. A considerable amount of environmental material has been recovered for further examination.
Given the difficulties of providing reasonably precise dates from carbon-14 dating in the period 800-400 BC, dendrochronological analysis of the structural oak in the façade of building 2 has provided a provisional felling date in the mid-5th century BC, suggesting the Black Loch settlement and the Cults Loch crannog were occupied about the same time. Further details can be found on the website www.dgnhas.org.uk