Crannogs: Ancient Artificial Islands

EnolaGaia

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Mysterious Structure May Have Led to Ancient Artificial Island

By Joseph Castro, LiveScience Contributor | LiveScience.com 

Archaeologists have unearthed the foundation of what appears to have been a massive, ancient structure, possibly a bridge leading to an artificial island, in what is now southeast Wales. The strange ruin, its discoverers say, is unlike anything found before in the United Kingdom and possibly all of Europe.

"It's a real mystery," said Steve Clarke, chairman and founding member of the Monmouth Archaeological Society, who discovered the structural remains earlier this month in Monmouth, Wales — a town known for its rich archaeological features. "Whatever it is, there's nothing else like it. It may well be unique."

Clarke and his team discovered the remnants of three giant timber beams placed alongside one another on a floodplainat the edge of an ancient lake that has long since filled with silt. After being set into the ground, the pieces of timber decayed, leaving anaerobic (oxygen-free) clay, which formed after silt filled in the timbers' empty slots, Clarke told LiveScience. [Photos of the mysterious structure]

The team initially thought the timber structures were once sleeper beams, or shafts of timber placed in the ground to form the foundations of a house. However, the pieces appear to be too large for that purpose. While a typical sleeper beam would span about 1 foot (30 centimeters) across, these timber beams were over 3 feet wide and at least 50 feet long (or about 1 meter by 15 meters). The archaeologists are still digging and don't yet know how much longer the timbers are. Clarke says the structure's builders appear to have placed whole trees, cut in half lengthwise, into the ground.

"One other thing that is striking, that might be relevant, is that the timbers seem to be lined up with the middle of the lake," Clarke noted, suggesting that the structures may have been part of a causeway to a crannog, or artificial island, constructed in the middle of the lake. "Even so, if it is a path to a crannog, it's huge."

The archaeologists also aren't sure when it was built or even if it came before or after the lake formed, but they say the structure, at its oldest, could date to the Bronze Age around 4,000 years ago. Beneath the beams the researchers found a burnt mound of rock and charcoal fragments, alongside of which they discovered a hearth and trough — scientists believe people in the Bronze Age heated stones in a fire and threw them into a filled trough to boil water.

"The discovery of this unusual site on a housing development near Monmouth is very interesting," a spokesperson for CADW, the Welsh government’s historic environment service, told LiveScience. "We have been monitoring the situation closely. At this point the date and function of the structure represented by these three long trenches is not known, despite a great deal of speculation. Only further excavation can clarify exactly what they represent."

Clarke believes its more likely the structure was built a little later, possibly during the Iron Age, but he says determining a reliable age for the structure will be tricky. Dating the burnt mound, which predates the timber that was placed on top of it, will only give a maximum age for the structure. Dating the clay, on the other hand, will yield an age that is too young because the clay deposited after the timber rotted away.

The archaeologists have already sent off charcoal samples from the burnt mound for chemical analyses and expect results later this month.

"And we now have some charcoal from the bottom of the slots (not from the burnt-mound area)," Clarke said. "Hopefully that will give us a closer date."

The research has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, with work at the site currently in progress.

SOURCE: http://news.yahoo.com/mysterious-struct ... 25472.html
 

Cochise

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I don't see what's novel about this? Crannogs - artificial islands in lakes linked to the land by causeways - have been discovered in Wales before - there was a Time Team programme about one - you can't get more mainstream that that :)
 

rynner2

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Cochise said:
I don't see what's novel about this? Crannogs - artificial islands in lakes linked to the land by causeways - have been discovered in Wales before - there was a Time Team programme about one - you can't get more mainstream that that :)
Wiki discusses crannogs in Scotland and Ireland too.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crannog

And old wooden tracks across marshes and meres are known from the Somerset Levels.
(Eg, the Post Track dates from around 3838 BC. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post_Track )
 

Jerry_B

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I think the possibility that it might be a 'massive, ancient structure' is what may make this site a little different.
 

Pietro_Mercurios

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Jerry_B said:
I think the possibility that it might be a 'massive, ancient structure' is what may make this site a little different.
You don't come across evidence of wooden beams a meter across, by fifteen meters long, every day.
 

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Pietro_Mercurios said:
Jerry_B said:
I think the possibility that it might be a 'massive, ancient structure' is what may make this site a little different.
You don't come across evidence of wooden beams a meter across, by fifteen meters long, every day.
Indeed, I look forward to future finds on the site.
 

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Cochise

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Pietro_Mercurios said:
Jerry_B said:
I think the possibility that it might be a 'massive, ancient structure' is what may make this site a little different.
You don't come across evidence of wooden beams a meter across, by fifteen meters long, every day.
No. But, strangely, you do come across a great deal of large scale woodwork in the context of crannogs and their causeways. Some are built built on wooden piles sunk in the lake, for example.

It doesn't sound that massive - not on the scale of Woodhenge for example, albeit that is an entirely different structure from a different - but probably even more ancient - period.

I'm not saying the site isn't interesting, but there does seem to be a lot of hyperbole in the report. They can date it between a range of dates, given time for the results to come back, so the clues are on their way.
 

Jerry_B

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So do you think that this is perhaps less impressive in terms of what we know about crannogs? Do you not think that the team involved are aware of such structures?
 

Cochise

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Jerry_B said:
So do you think that this is perhaps less impressive in terms of what we know about crannogs? Do you not think that the team involved are aware of such structures?
We are only going by secondary sources, so I don't really know what the team think, and there may of course be other motives like protecting the site. But archaeology can sometimes be incredibly parochial, yes.
 

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I must admit I wondered why this was supposed to be so unique. That said it's probably just the way the paper has reported it.
 

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I might be missing something here, but is it not the size of the individual timbers that is unusual?

...these timber beams were over 3 feet wide and at least 50 feet long (or about 1 meter by 15 meters)...the structure's builders appear to have placed whole trees, cut in half lengthwise, into the ground...
Are they really talking about single unjointed sections? Sourcing and machining a single timber this size would be a pretty serious matter even in more recent times. (I'm assuming the woodwork in question is also, or would have been, quite thick, as it's also described as a 'sleeper'.)

I really don't know enough about archaeology to judge whether this is unusual or not. Are single timbers of this size really not that noteworthy?
 

oldrover

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Oh yeah, I didn't read it properly, that is unusual.
 

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Another crannóg.

Minister delays road to allow time for dig on North's most important crannóg
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ire ... 40881.html
GERRY MORIARTY, Northern Editor in Enniskillen

Sat, Dec 01, 2012

The North’s Minister of the Environment, Alex Attwood, is to extend the time for 27 archaeologists to conduct a dig on what has been described as one of the most important crannógs in Ireland.

For at least 1,000 years, the site is believed to have housed generations of the same Gaelic Christian family who kept cattle and pigs, were close to the local nobility, had crafts expertise and liked to dress up and play board games.

Work on building a road over the crannóg – an ancient dwelling built on an artificial island in a lake – located at Drumclay just outside Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, was due to begin at the start of the new year. However, the SDLP Minister said extra time would be provided to allow the archaeologists to complete their excavation. Roadworks at the site were halted in June.

Mr Attwood did not specify how much more time would be allowed for the excavation.

“This is the first substantial scientific excavation of a crannóg in Northern Ireland. What has been found has the potential not only to be internationally important but ultimately to lead to a reassessment of life in Ulster in early Christian and medieval times,” he said.

Gabriel Cooney, professor of Celtic archaeology at UCD and chairman of the Northern Ireland Historic Monuments Council, said the crannóg was of parallel importance to the Viking discoveries in Dublin.

“This is a site of European importance,” he said. “What’s extraordinary is the level of preservation and also the high quality of excavation. So we are getting the maximum out of this site, which will have value way into the future.”

Nora Bermingham, Drimnagh, Dublin, who is overseeing the work, said it was thought that many generations of the same family, “who had the ear of nobility”, lived on the crannóg from the sixth century, and possibly earlier, up to the 17th century.

“In terms of comparisons with crannógs on this island” she added, “it stands far and above most other crannógs that we have information on. It’s verging on being a lake settlement.”

Decorated vessels

Artefacts recovered include pieces from a medieval board game, a wooden bowl with a cross carved into its base, other decorated vessels and combs made from antler and bone.

Parts of at least two log boats were also discovered, as well as a wooden oar.

“These people had status behind them,” Ms Bermingham said at the site this week. “These were wealthy people who displayed that wealth in their personal ornaments, in their everyday objects. They had their own craftspeople who were very skilled.”

Also recovered from the site were pieces of pottery, iron and bronze spear heads, shears and dress pins, a bone-handled knife and whetstones.

An open day for the public is to be held in Enniskillen and at the Drumclay site tomorrow. Booking is recommended, at 048-6632 5000.
 

EnolaGaia

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Recent research and discoveries indicate the crannogs (artificial islets) date back farther than previously expected - into the Neolithic.
Neolithic People Made Fake Islands More Than 5,600 Years Ago

Hundreds of tiny islands around Scotland didn't arise naturally. They're fakes that were constructed out of boulders, clay and timbers by Neolithic people about 5,600 years ago, a new study finds.

Researchers have known about these artificial islands, known as crannogs, for decades. But many archaeologists thought that the crannogs were made more recently, in the Iron Age about 2,800 years ago.

The new finding not only shows that these crannogs are much older than previously thought but also that they were likely "special locations" for Neolithic people, according to nearby pottery fragments found by modern divers, the researchers wrote in the study. ...

Initially, many researchers thought that Scotland's crannogs were built around 800 B.C. and reused until post-medieval times in A.D. 1700. But in the 1980s, hints began to emerge that some of these islands were made much earlier. ...

According to radiocarbon dating, four of the crannogs were created between 3640 B.C. and 3360 B.C., the researchers found. Other evidence, including ground and underwater surveys, palaeoenvironmental coring and excavation, supported the idea that these particular islets dated to the Neolithic. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/65728-neolithic-human-made-islands.html
 

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Interesting. Not necessarily Fortean in the sense of weird or anomalous, but still worth a read.

I see that because the beams were aligned towards the centre of the lake, it is postulated that they were part of a causeway leading to an artificial island in the middle of the lake. That's a big leap of imagination from 3 beams which have not yet been fully exposed. As Spike Milligan nearly said, "Everything's got to point somewhere." I'd like to see more evidence of an alignment before I confidently concluded that these beams were aligned towards an as yet unproven artificial island.

In most modern structures such as jetties and footbridges, we use short timbers or planks at right angles to the intended direction of travel. The article seems to be suggesting that these builders used long timbers aligned in the direction of travel.

At Flag Fen, near Peterborough, England, there was a bronze age causeway with an artificial island part way along its length. There, wooden stakes were driven into the ground, sometimes to a depth of around 3 metres. These were then used to support a well crafted timber structure with proper carpentry joints. Although I cannot cite sources, I'm sure I've heard of other causeways that were made of simple bundles of withies (willow twigs).

It was certainly not unusual to settle on low lying marsh/wetland either by building huts on stilts, or by creating an artificial island. It would be an obvious defensive position, and probably with good fishing on the doorstep.

What is certainly unusual and impressive here is that the beams are about 3 feet/1 metre wide and 50 feet/15 metres long and were made of tree trunks split in half lengthways. I've spent time splitting logs for firewood using a modern axe. Splitting a tree trunk lengthways with bronze age tools (small axes, wedges?) would be an enormous undertaking.

Also interesting: that the hearth and burned mound of rock and charcoal was under these beams. Why? Why was the hearth not alongside, or nearby?
 
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Scotland's crannogs are older than Stonehenge

Archaeologists have discovered that some Scottish crannogs are thousands of years older than previously thought.

Crannogs were fortified settlements constructed on artificial islands in lochs.

It was thought they were first built in the Iron Age, a period that began around 800 BC.

But four Western Isles sites have been radiocarbon dated to about 3640-3360 BC in the Neolithic period - before the erection of Stonehenge's stone circle.


Continued:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-48625734
 
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Archaeologist believes crannóg site has been discovered in Co Galway

Local man Jimmy Ó Céide discovered the site while out walking after Storm Brendan.

Source: RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta
Date: 3 February, 2020

A POTENTIAL CRANNÓG site has been located in Co Galway, according to an archaeologist.

RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta reported this morning that a new site of archaeological importance has been discovered at An Liopa Thoir, east of An Spidéal.

Local man Jimmy Ó Céide discovered the site while out walking after Storm Brendan.

Archaeologist Michael Gibbons said the site is of great importance and that he believes that it is a crannóg. However, this is yet to be confirmed.

A crannóg is an ancient fortified dwelling constructed usually in a lake in Ireland or Scotland.

Gibbons told RTÉ that there are very few sites like this in the country and that there was evidence that people had lived in this coastal area of Galway since 7,000 BC.

“This is a very important site. It amazes me that a site of such interest is here, not far at all from the other one further west in An Liopa. They are not common in this part of the country, or indeed anywhere in Ireland,” Gibbons said.

“If you look around here, initially, there’s nothing to see but if you look more closely you see the wood … this may well be a crannóg,” he said.

“It’s much wider than a bog road … sometimes you find a bog road like this in the middle of the county, around Ballinasloe, it may be a bog road, but I think it’s more likely to be a dwelling place.”

https://www-thejournal-ie.cdn.amppr...crannog-discovered-co-galway-4990809-Feb2020/
 

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Also interesting: that the hearth and burned mound of rock and charcoal was under these beams. Why? Why was the hearth not alongside, or nearby?
At the recreated Scottish Crannog Centre on Loch Tay (which I've been at many times over the years) their interpretation has always included a vast circular cupped hearthstone in the middle of the floor timbers. I was told this exactly matched what had been found at the centre of each of the archeological remnants of the original now-sunken crannogs once existing around the loch.

The constantly-chilled and deep waters there have preserved around these sites what may conceivably be millennia of food debris (seeds/shells/bones/husks) and other human detritus (the crannog itself is owned and run by the Scottish Centre for Underwater Archaeology)

They've built it as a semi-commercialised long-term experiment, designed following excavations (resurfacings? how do you excavate water?) from the 2-3,000yr old Oakbank Crannog site over at Fearnan on the opposite (north) shore of Loch Tay


My children when younger and visiting the crannog used to get dressed-up as part of the reenactment experience, then fight with spears, attempt to start fires and help weave blankets from wool they'd just spun.

The level of embedded reality that can be generated at such a place has to be tried rather than described. After an hour it was always a lot more 'Lord of the Flies' than 'Time Team'....
 

Ermintruder

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Ive been to the Crannog centre
Did you dress-up or decline? I've followed both approaches on different days.

And did you notice the big red-wired smoke detector in the roof apex? These late bronze age people really took their health& safety seriously.
 

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Oh, they didnt offer me that.

And they wouldnt let me near the dugout canoes...I was so keen too.

In revenge I insisted they did the `Fire by friction` (They were going to skip that)
 

Frideswide

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Did you dress-up or decline? I've followed both approaches on different days.
I've not been to the Crannog Centre. Although I do /always/ insist on dressing up, carrying props and wearing funny hats.
Mr Frideswide gets very embarassed :oldm:
 

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Crannogs – Timber and stone riddles wrapped in water

Source: heritagedaily.com
Date: 3 March, 2020

The cold, dark waters of Scottish lochs hold a certain place in the imagination – conjuring up images of the Loch Ness monster, or for others, the animistic water spirits of Scottish folklore known as ‘kelpies’, not to mention the stunning backdrop for numerous movies.

However, for a handful of of archaeologists, the dark water of Scottish lochs hold a different, more tangible riddle – island dwellings, typically represented by the crannog, a type of small artificial islet, and the Hebridean ‘island dun’.

While the concept of an island-dwelling is relatively straightforward, current terminology employs a number of overlapping labels. The Gaelic word crannog literally translates as ‘son of tree’ or ‘young tree’. However, the term also applies to numerous wooden tools or implements ranging from ship masts to butter churns no less, leaving us with open-ended meanings.

Though there are wide variations in methodology, the majority of mainland Scottish crannogs would have been constructed by driving timber piles into the loch bed, then filling in the interior with peat, brush, stones or timber until a solid foundation was formed. Today, most crannogs appear as little more than unassuming, heavily overgrown islets beyond the reach of grazing livestock, while in many instances, others exist as completely submerged stone-capped mounds, only accessible to intrepid, drysuit clad divers.

https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/03/crannogs-timber-and-stone-riddles-wrapped-in-water/98753
 

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If not viewed previously, there's an interesting, 'Time Team' episode, investigating the crannog at Loch Tay, Perthshire:

 
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