Scotland’s first Iron Age loch village uncovered in Wigtownshire

Archaeologists working on the site during the summer. Photo courtesy of The Whithorn Trust.
Archaeologists working on the site during the summer. Photo courtesy of The Whithorn Trust.

Archaeologists have uncovered remains of the first Iron Age ‘loch village’ to be found in Scotland at Black Loch of Myrton, Monreith.

Experts from AOC Archaeology Group carried out an excavation, which was part-financed with £15,000 from Historic Scotland, this summer in was a small-scale pilot excavation of what was initially thought to be a crannog in the now-infilled loch, which was under threat of destruction as a result of drainage operations.

However, during the excavation the group – who worked on the dig in conjunction with local volunteers – discovered evidence of multiple structures making up a small village.

What initially appeared to be one of a small group of mounds before excavation was revealed to be a massive stone hearth complex at the centre of a roundhouse. The timber structure of the house has been preserved, with beams radiating out from the hearth forming the foundation, while the outer wall consists of a double-circuit of stakes.

The most surprising discovery was that the house was not built on top of an artificial foundation, but directly over the fen peat which had gradually filled in the loch. Rather than being a single crannog, as first thought, it appears to be a settlement of at least seven houses built in the wetlands around the small loch.

This type of site is currently unique in Scotland and there are few other comparable sites elsewhere in the British Isles. Similar lake villages - including Glastonbury and Meare, which is also in Somerset – have been found in England, but this is the first ‘loch village’ to be uncovered in Scotland. Experts hope that its discovery will help to improve our knowledge and understanding of Iron Age Scotland.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “The remains of an extensive Iron Age settlement at the Black Loch of Myrton are an exciting and unexpected find. There are some excellent examples of ‘lake villages’ in England but this is the first time archaeologists have found a ‘loch village’ in Scotland. I am pleased too that experts joined forces with local volunteers on this project and I look forward to discovering what more this important find can teach us about Iron Age Scotland.

“I am delighted too that Historic Scotland has awarded funds to such a wide variety of interesting and worthwhile archaeology projects for 2013/14. These range from small initiatives to large-scale undertakings, include both new and on-going schemes and encompass everything from nautical archaeology to innovative digital methods of telling Scotland’s story. In archaeological terms, Scotland is one of the most exciting places in Europe, so I’m pleased that such a broad range of interesting projects are receiving this financial support.”