This morning we were visited at the dig by 30 children from Lochinver and Stoer primary schools. They began by walking the moat, spreading out into a big ring to demonstrate exactly what we are dealing with. They then gathered within it and set about deciding what used to be there. The suggestions were wild and wonderful, but what was quite clear was that whoever it was that built the moat didn’t want anyone else inside. Personally I like the idea that it was someone’s private flower garden, but at the moment we still don’t know which of the ideas is closest to the truth.
Meanwhile the archaeologists have made great progress down into the moat, which is, as Charlotte put it, in strictly technical terms, ‘getting a little bit moaty’. In other words, as the water steadily seeped into the trench, Graeme, Scotty and anyone else who could be persuaded to get down there, were bailing as hard as they were digging, The good news about all this waterlogging, however, is that it means that any old rubbish chucked into the ditch, including organic materials, stand a chance of having been preserved.
Sure enough, just as I was leaving, Graeme unearthed a piece of wood from the moat. It was rushed into a bag, with water, and tucked away out of the light to stop it starting to decompose. Some visitors asked if it might be part of a structure, but it might just as likely be a bit of broken bucket. Whichever, it can be dated, and I have no doubt that some wizardly post-excavation lab-work will reveal all kinds of interesting things about it. It’s intriguing to know that a mediaeval joiner or wood turner has left their fingerprint in Inchnadamph – that little chunk of wood brings them so much closer to us.
There have been some other finds too, most coming from the outer bank, including interesting looking pieces of decorated, wheel-thrown pottery, several chunks of slag from iron-working, and some hazel charcoal.
The charcoal is particularly pleasing, as tomorrow there is a celebration of hazel trees at Stoer Hall (2-5pm, all welcome!) so we will take it along. AOC have very kindly donated a microscope to us, so we’ll be able to look at it in detail, as well as hear from Graeme about the other hazel finds from the broch and the burnt mound, and what they tell us about what life was like for earlier inhabitants of sunny Assynt.
Sunny Assynt it remains, spectacularly so: cold, breezy and gloriously bright, the perfect weather for digging.