Scotland's Loch Village: Black Loch of Myrton

working shotExcavations at Black Loch of Myrton in Dumfries and Galloway in 2015 and 2016 have yielded stunning new information about life in the Iron Age. Our work has focussed on very well preserved early Iron Age settlement which was located on the fringes of a boggy loch, long since drained. 

In 2015, excavations targeted one of the many large mounds identified on the site. This was found to be a stone and timber hearth setting, over 2.5 m square, located at the centre of a timber roundhouse c.  13m in diameter. The hearth had been refurbished at least three times by adding a new layer of cobbles, clay and timber on top of the previous hearth base. Associated with the hearth was a sequence of flooring deposits comprising reeds, wicker panels and clay spreads, again showing evidence for repeated refurbishment. The wall of the roundhouse was found to comprise a double ring of stakes, around 30 cm apart. In the better-preserved areas of the outer wall, woven withies survived in situ to a height of around 20cm from ground level. In the area where the walls approached the entrance to the house, the wicker walling was replaced by vertically-set oak planks, forming a façade-like outer face.  The entrance of the roundhouse was located and excavated in 2016, and was remarkably well preserved. Like the central hearth, the entrance structure had been refurbished at least three times. The lowest levels were in very good condition, and comprised several dressed logs showing evidence for jointing and dowelling. Two 'sleeper' beams were jointed with sockets, presumably for vertical posts at the terminals of the roundhouse wall. Provisional radiocarbon dates from the occupation deposits in this structure indicate a mid-1st millennium BC date for its occupation.

palisade, oven and oven detail

Excavations near the perimeter of the settlement in 2016 located evidence for several phases of enclosure, the earliest of which comprised a closely-set palisade of alder logs (above left) c.25cm in diameter, and the latest of which may have been a heavy stone wall. Within the early perimeter, beneath the later stone wall, the remains of two clay structures were discovered, interpreted as cooking ovens (above centre and right). These structures were very similar in design, comprising a clay dome, probably supported by a wicker basket-like structure – still preserved in the earlier example – over a base of flat greywacke slabs. In the later oven, remains of cooking debris was recovered from the oven base and contained large quantities of hazel-nut shells, burnt bone and marine mollusc shell. The ovens were probably located within a building, and were associated with compacted reed floor deposits similar to those encountered within the roundhouses on the site. However, excavations in this area were too limited in extent to elucidate the form of this structure.

spindle whorlArtefacts were limited in number and variety from both seasons of excavation. However, a large number of stone tools were recovered, including querns, rubbers and grinders, as well as a small clay 'thumb pot'. A decorated stone spindle whorl was recovered in 2016. 

Excavations at Black Loch of Myrton have been made possible thanks to support from Historic Environment Scotland.