Crannogs: Ancient Artificial Islands

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,530
Likes
14,144
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
#1
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

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
4,968
Likes
4,597
Points
159
#2
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

Great Old One
Joined
Aug 7, 2001
Messages
55,252
Likes
8,934
Points
284
Location
Under the moon
#3
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

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,055
Likes
40
Points
129
#4
I think the possibility that it might be a 'massive, ancient structure' is what may make this site a little different.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,025
Likes
146
Points
114
#5
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.
 
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
48,274
Likes
19,876
Points
284
Location
Eblana
#6
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.
 

Mythopoeika

I am a meat popsicle
Joined
Sep 18, 2001
Messages
35,868
Likes
21,954
Points
309
Location
Inside a starship, watching puny humans from afar
#7

Cochise

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
4,968
Likes
4,597
Points
159
#8
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

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,055
Likes
40
Points
129
#9
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

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
4,968
Likes
4,597
Points
159
#10
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.
 

oldrover

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Oct 18, 2009
Messages
3,941
Likes
1,335
Points
159
#11
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.
 
Joined
May 24, 2006
Messages
5,779
Likes
4,264
Points
244
#12
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?
 
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
48,274
Likes
19,876
Points
284
Location
Eblana
#14
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

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,530
Likes
14,144
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
#15
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
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,530
Likes
14,144
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
#16

Mikefule

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
399
Likes
1,096
Points
139
Location
Lincolnshire UK
#17
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?
 
Last edited:

Comfortably Numb

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Aug 7, 2018
Messages
3,007
Likes
3,726
Points
154
Location
Phone
#19
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
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Top