Vol­un­teers are dig­ging up the past at Dunol­lie

The Oban Times - - News -

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.

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