Kirkcudbright History Society learn about the Black Loch

At the December meeting of Kirkcudbright History Society well known local archaeologist, Graeme Cavers, of AOC Archaeology Group, spoke about excavations at Blackloch of Myrton. The presence of local man Graeme, and the importance of the findings for Galloway on the site he described, ensured that once again there was a large turnout of members and visitors.

Galloway is fortunate to have a range of Iron Age features such as forts, ditches, enclosures and brochs. Graeme Cavers described previous archaeological work in Galloway in which he and many other people and groups had been involved. For example the Community based project at Cults Loch near Castle Kennedy where other Iron Age features had been explored.

Blackloch of Myrton in Wigtownshire has been known as the possible site of an Iron Age crannog (an ancient lake dwelling) since the 1880’s. However recent work by AOC Archaeology Group - which worked on the dig with local volunteers- and was part financed by Historic Scotland, has revealed a site of much more significance than originally thought.

The excavation of what was considered to be a single crannog has now revealed evidence of multiple structures probably seven. Archaeologists have in fact discovered the remains of a small community on the site, the best preserved “loch village” known in Scotland.

The waterlogged conditions of the Blackloch of Myrton site means organic material like wood has survived. Using modern archaeological methods of dating wood and other organic material the settlement can be more precisely dated to around 460 BC, unusually precise for an Iron Age settlement. Surviving parts of the structure also reveal how it was made and constructed.

During the excavation, what seemed to be a small group of mounds has been revealed as a stone hearth complex made of cobbles and clay at the centre of a roundhouse. There is also evidence of the hearth complex having been refurbished and repaired at least three times. The floor of the structure was made of logs laid close together with beams radiating outwards.

Soil analysis also shows something of what the site was used for and what activities were taking place. Different parts of the buildings had distinct uses from one part of a building to another. The site was domestic with people and animals living together.

Some artifacts have also been found like saddle querns and hammers for hide or leather working which confirm this as a domestic site.

What is particularly exciting about the site is that this is the best preserved loch village in Scotland. There are only two comparable places in the U.K., the lake villages of Glastonbury and Meare in Somerset in England. This is an important site Nationally and puts Galloway firmly on the map as far as Iron Age archaeology is concerned.

Following an extensive range of questions on matters like the physical size of the structures; why they had been abandoned; what was known about the size of the population; the kinds of domestic animals in use; the kinds of artifacts found on Iron Age sites; what work had been done on pollen analysis; what evidence there might have been for any warfare on the site all which Graeme Cavers handled with care and expertise, the meeting was left with the encouraging news that it was hoped to do further archaeological work on the site in 2015.This could increase further our knowledge of Galloway’s loch village.

The next meeting of Kirkcudbright History Society is on January 14 2015 when Ivor Waddell will be giving a presentation on “Billy Marshall - Galloway Gypsy and Leveller”.