Volunteers are digging up the past at Dunollie
IN JULY 2016, work was undertaken to re- excavate a small part of a large trench at Dunollie Castle to enable archaeologists to determine the chronology of the ancient site.
The aim of this dig was to assess what had been exposed in an excavation back in the 1970s, before consolidation and landscaping work started in the courtyard.
Four volunteers took part in the dig under the guidance of archaeologist Roddy Regan, from Kilmartin Museum. Included among the findings from the trench, which is situated in the northern half of the courtyard and at the south-west side of the trench, was an area of what appears to be mounded soil, possibly the weathered remains of the previous spoil heap.
After the team had begun to remove the backfill deposits, it was revealed that several features within the trench may have all functioned at the same time.
A wall face and possible doorway of a structure were discovered in the north-west corner of the courtyard, with a drain running down to a chute in the western wall of the courtyard surround.
Adjoining the south of the wall was a secondary wall forming what is thought to be the possible edge of a platform or side of an embankment, with a paved area at its base.
The only part of the wall which could be seen in the trench looked to be constructed from angular and rounded rubble, with the gaps between bonded together with a soft light yellow mortar, which over time has weathered from the surface.
A large angular stone was uncovered on the east side of a gap in the trench, which suggested a door jamb at the base. However, the adjacent side of the gap was missing which is thought to have been the result of a possible robbing.
To the south and west of the wall, the team found remains of a well-worn paved surface consisting of sandstone and split cobbles. This surface lay oppo- site a probable entrance into the castle on the north and possibly also at the foot of a set of steps to the east.
While the absence of paving may be due to a robbing (along with some disturbance by tree roots), it seems more likely any such paving was originally absent in this part of the trench with some flat slates providing a less robust surface.
Another discovery made by the team was within the fill of the drain, where they found bone, glass and clay tobacco pipe fragments, all coming from cleaning over the remaining top of the deposit. The bone fragments were all small and appear to derive from food or cooking waste.
Dunollie plans to continue its archaeological work this year with funding from Historic Environment Scotland as part of the national Dig It Programme.
Primarily, the next phase of work would involve consolidating the edges of the trench and the removal of some rubble deposits to clearly expose more features.
This would also present the opportunity to obtain some reliable dating evidence for the last use of these features, which was not uncovered by the previous work.
Dunollie will be looking for volunteers to assist in the second dig.
If you would like to register your interest, call the office on 01631 570550.
Volunteers assess the trench excavated at Dunollie, but more helpers are needed for a second dig.