BEAULY FIRTH CRANNOGS
Crannogs are a type of ancient loch dwelling found throughout Scotland and Ireland. They were built out in the water as defensive homesteads, secure from potential invaders. People began living in these island homes as early as 5,000 years ago, and continued to do so up until the 17th century AD.
The marine crannogs in the Beauly Firth represent almost 50% of the total number of known crannogs in the intertidal waters of the Scottish coastline and therefore represent an important national resource. Monitoring of this limited resource would enable future management strategies to be developed for intertidal monuments of a similar nature. Additionally, further research into the structural and functional attributes of these sites would enhance the current database.
The marine crannogs in the Beauly Firth have recently been investigated and radiocarbon dates from three of the sites indicate that they were constructed and used in the later Bronze Age and Iron Age
Situated 300m from the N shoreline on an intertidal mud flat, at low tide the uncovered oval mass of boulders measures max 40m by 25m. The site is uncovered for between 4 and 6 hours at each low tide. The site's maximum absolute height above the surrounding mud flats is 1.85m. Surface covering consists of boulders beneath which are cobbles, pebbles, intestitial estuarine sediments, substantial timbers and other well-preserved organic remains. Preliminary excavation revealed three phases of timber construction. A foundation of wattle-lined pits lined with clay and packing stones underlies a horizontal rectangular framework of worked alder timbers. The framework consists of four alder timbers held in place with oak piles driven through square cut slots and a substantial corner crosspiece. Above the framework are the remains of a superstructure including wattling, timbers, organic remains and sedimentary deposits of sand and clay. Amongst these sediments were found seeds, cherry pips, shells, beech nuts, brushwood and animal and fish bones.
The site is situated on a sub-tidal sandbank and when exposed at low tide is 1m above local datum. The smallest site in the Beauly Firth group, it measures 25m long and 18m wide. The oval mound consists of seaweed-covered boulders beneath which are pebbles and estuarine sediments. Random sampling produced shells, wood fragments and brushwood remains, however, no timbers have been found.
250m from the southern shore, Phopachy is situated on an intertidal sand bank. The oval-shaped site measures 28m long by 25m wide and the highest part of the site is 1.72m above the surrounding sand bank. The site is covered with boulders colonised by seaweed, beneath which are cobbles, pebbles and interstitial estuarine sediments. Sampling to a depth of 40cm revealed brushwood, well-preserved substantial timbers, leaves, shells and other organic remains. Three horizontal alder timbers were found lying parallel to one another and their upper surfaces showed signs of wear and structural compression.