The Mingary Castle restoration blog was written by Jon Haylett, who lives in the local village of Kilchoan. Now that restoration is almost complete Holly and Chris Bull will take over to report on bringing the Castle back to life.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Oldest Finds So Far

The pace of work down on the site seems to increase each day as more and more of the facilities needed continue to arrive.  Today two containers were delivered and lifted into position - not containers at all but a site office and a tearoom with toilet facilities - a place where everyone can escape once the dreaded Highland midges get started.

With Ross Cameron away for the week, Kenny Macfadyen is in charge of the Addyman Archaeology team.  He's working in the eastern room of the main range excavating the floor near where he found the cannonball.  This morning he was carefully lifting slates which appear not to have been debris from the 19th century roof demolition but, with a layer of gravel and cobbles, part of a temporary floor level, perhaps associated with the insertion of the internal walls during the early 18th century.  Interestingly, and inexplicably, under some of the slates there is a 10-20mm layer of yellow-brown clay.  While I was there Kenny seemed to confirm the approximate age by the discovery of a piece of 18th century green glass, perhaps part of a bottle, from the clay layer.

Val Dufeu, who comes from France but lives in Scotland, started work on the west range yesterday. She is down to the layer of flagstones and cobbles which formed the floor of what was a kitchen. The bones, pottery, glass and iron she's finding suggest that the level she's working on is 19th century.  To her right is one of two huge chimneys in the room which housed cooking ranges.  The room went through various rearrangements: originally it had two doors to the courtyard but, at some point, one of these was blocked.  Val also pointed out that the whole room is on two levels, the northern higher than the southern.

Another new archaeologist on site is Callum Allsop, a Welshman resident in Scotland, who is working in one of the quadrants in the moat.  He's excavating close to the castle walls where the dark colour of the fill between the rocks has yet to be explained.  On his side the main finds continue to be late 18th century glass, pottery and bones which have been thrown from the castle.

The most exciting find this week has been made by the - justifiably - smiling Canadian Andrew Morrison excavatinging on the land side of the moat.  In general, he's been working his way down through land-based rubble thrown from the flat area to the north of the castle, including bones, but he was thrilled when, in two separate places, he found pieces of clay pottery.

Amazingly, they are parts of the same pot - and they fit together. Andrew is almost certain that it's at least Iron Age - so a minimum of 2,000 years old.  The pot was made by rolling out lengths of clay which were them coiled to form the shape of the pot, after which the inside and outside were  smoothed, often using a handful of grass: the marks left by the leaves are clearly visible.

This is the first tentative evidence that the site was occupied before the 13th-century building of the castle.  The name suggests that the site may have been used by the Vikings; now there is the possibility it was occupied even earlier.  We'll have to wait for a date until the fragments have gone away to be conserved and dated.

Roger and Simon from Vertical Technology are still on site.  They have a couple of rods to insert, and the last of the ropes to remove before making a final record of exactly where all the 85+ steel rods were inserted.  They hope to be away tomorrow - and they'll be missed by archaeologist Val Dufeu whose wheelbarrow Simon nobly emptied.

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