BLM site shotsAOC Archaeology Group has been excavating the Iron Age wetland settlement in the Black Loch of Myrton, Dumfries & Galloway, since 2013 with the support of grants from Historic Environment Scotland.  The waterlogged environment has ensured a fantastic level of organic preservation and a settlement of timber-built roundhouses has been uncovered, in which the plank walls, wickerwork floors and posts all survive. Palisades of planks and posts surround the settlement and a log trackway runs through it. Shown to the right are: (top) the log track which forms the main routeway through the settlement; and (bottom) the entrance to Structure 2, showing the oak planks in the outer wall to the left which were felled in 435 BC.

The quantity of surviving wood has provided a rare opportunity to date an Iron Age settlement using dendrochronology. Oak, alder, ash and hazel are all being analysed to provide a detailed chronology of building activity on the settlement, the oak providing absolute calendar dates while the other species are used to demonstrate chronological relationships between structures. Analysis of the oak used in one of the roundhouses has enabled us to date its construction to 435 BC, while analysis of the other species has demonstrated that a neighbouring roundhouse and the post-built palisade were also built in the same year. This level of chronological resolution is rare on prehistoric sites in the UK and the work at Black Loch should eventually result in the development of a long oak chronology which will help in the dating of other Iron Age sites.

Despite the survival of so much structural wood the site had never produced any wooden artefacts, but during the 2018 excavations two artefacts were found which, as well as being the first at Black Loch, are also unique in the UK. The decorated lathe-turned bowl and spindle-turned baton (function unknown) were recovered from 5th century BC contexts and both demonstrate an outstanding technical proficiency and aesthetic sensibility in the way in which they have been decorated and finished. A 3D reconstruction of the lathe-turned bowl is shown below (left) alongside a photograph of the spindle-turned baton (right).

Bowl reconstruction image and turned baton