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Archaeologists uncover remains of first Iron Age ‘loch village’ to be found in Scotland

30 August 2013

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of an Iron Age ‘loch village’ in Wigtownshire, the first of its kind to be found in Scotland. Experts believe that the significant find could be ‘Scotland’s Glastonbury’, a reference to the Glastonbury Lake Village in Somerset, a site of international significance.

The excavation was part-financed with £15,000 from Historic Scotland, and carried out this summer by AOC Archaeology Group, who hope to use this year’s pilot excavation as the starting point for a broader programme of archaeological activity with multiple funders.

It is one of 55 archaeology projects to receive funding from Historic Scotland for 2013/14. Monies awarded range from £250 to £141,031 and total £1,398,976.

The Wigtownshire dig was a small-scale pilot excavation of what was initially thought to be a crannog in the now-infilled Black Loch of Myrton, which was under threat of destruction as a result of drainage operations.

However during the excavation, AOC Archaeology 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.

In 2013/14, Historic Scotland is funding a wide range of new and ongoing archaeology projects; recipients include the Nautical Archaeology Society, Glasgow University, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The RSPB received £18,618 to manage monuments and promote heritage on RSPB reserves and The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland received £55,000 to enable detailed planning of a series of celebrations of Scottish archaeology in 2015.

A £30,000 grant was awarded to Archaeology Scotland for its ‘Adopt a Monument’ scheme which sees communities getting involved in conservation projects throughout 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.”

She added: “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.”

Notes for editors:

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Alice Wyllie
Media & PR Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07920 768 096