What a muddy little bit of hazel stick tells us

Scotty, Graeme and John digging

The diggers hit the bottom of the moat today, and the various interesting bits and bobs dug up included a little bit of hazel stick. This was a nice coincidence as in the afternoon Graeme came to the community event at Stoer Hall, organised by Romany Garnett, our new tree nursery worker, all about hazel. After being exhorted by local ecologist Ian Evans to cherish the wonderful asset we have in our hazels, we planted some young hazel trees, and a group of people, led by Chris Park, set about making a wattle hurdle. We have agreed that when we come to do more work on the broch, we will endeavour to replicate the wattle flooring, the remains of which we found on the scarcement ledge back in 2012 (see here).

Graeme gave a fascinating presentation about how hazel has been used through the millennia, as deduced from wood excavated from various sites around the British Isles. Among Graeme’s pictures was one of the home of an Irish king, who lived in what was effectively a big elaborate upturned hazel basket. Unfortunately we haven’t yet excavated anything to tell us what structures may have been built with the hazel at Inchnadamph, but the fact that there was a hazel stick there means we’re free to speculate! From what Graeme showed us, our stick was quite likely to have been part of a wattle hurdle, perhaps used as the wall of a dwelling, or as part of a stock enclosure, or a gate. Maybe it was a draw-bridge over the moat!

Sieving soil at Inchnadamph

What is really exciting is that a dendrochronologist maybe able to examine it and use it to give a pretty precise date for the site, and at least carbon dating it will give us a ballpark figure for when the moated island was in use.

The sieved soil continued to reveal pieces of pottery, bone fragments and iron slag, which will all add to the story, back at the lab.




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