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.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Detailed Archaeology

The sort of detailed work being done by the archaeologists from Addyman Archaeology is well illustrated by Ross Cameron's activities over the last few weeks.  Ross is an expert on west coast castles so I hope that working at Mingary has been an enjoyable experience for him.

Much of his time has been spent in the northwest quadrant of the kitchen range - it's marked, palely, with a red oval in this picture, which was taken looking down from the battlements.  It's the point where the original stairway accessing the battlements reached the courtyard of the castle, and some of it therefore pre-dates the existing kitchen range.  Ross ended up with quite a deep, and very restricted hole, but what he found down there was quite amazing.

In all, he identified no less than twenty-one different 'contexts' - that is, accumulations of material each with different characteristics.  I have marked four on the picture, which shows the upper part of the section through which he worked.  431 is the castle's west wall, and 401 is the topsoil layer.  409 is a layer of mortar and other debris indicting a demolition phase - this is difficult to date.  403 contains slates, rocks from walls, and a mottled, mid-brown clay which dates back to the removal of the roof, some time after 1838.

All these are marked on a very detailed cross-sectional drawing, though this one is further complicated in that it shows sections at right angles to each other.  The important thing is that it illustrates the spatial positions of all the different contexts.

Their relationships are simplified in a Harris Matrix.  The context numbered 429 is interesting: it's the contents of a stone-lined drain which Ross found towards the bottom of his trench; these may have accumulated over a long period of time, so it's indicted as 'active' right up through the section.  431, which I mentioned above, is the castle structure - walls and so on - which is marked within a house-like symbol.

Once he'd finished with his corner of the west range, Ross moved on the the area around the well.  The picture was taken after the wall had been removed which separated the well area from the room at the front of the building.  To the right, under the algal-green stonework, is the well itself.  The flagstones Ross has excavated to the left were the floor of the room which accessed the well, over the partly demolished wall at centre.  In the foreground are the layers beneath - neat cobbles laid on a sandy base.

The archaeologists at Addyman Archaeology are excited about continuing the excavation of the well itself, partly because it may contain deposits that go back through the early history of the castle, but also because they're not sure exactly what it is, a well or a cistern, or how it worked.  When they return this week, they'll be back working on it.

Ross was, as always, very patient and generous with his time when he explained all this to me, but I'm quite sure I've got some of it wrong.  Any errors are therefore mine, and I apologise for them.

No comments:

Post a Comment