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Friday, 4 June 2010
Loch Tay Crannog Centre
I've been interested in crannogs for years. I read about what Stephen Lawhead imagined life would be like in a crannog in his fictional Celtic trilogy. Since then I've discovered that scores of crannogs remains have been discovered in Scottish lochs. A crannog is a dwelling place built on stakes or perhaps an artificial island on water. The remains are plentiful. Even as locally as Loch Lomond, it had been known for a long time that some of the islands appeared to be man-made. A couple of the conglomerations of stones are easily visible at the east end of Loch Tay. These are bronze age dwellings. On Loch Tay, a crannog has been reconstructed as a tourist attraction and also as a means of raising money for the continued underwater excavations which are revealing a wealth of artifacts.
There is a small museum at the centre with some of the artifacts that have been recovered from the loch. The difference between land archeology and underwater archeology is that under water much of the organic material is preserved, such as wooden objects or a bracken floor that collapsed into the water. They're recovered everyday wooden utensils and some of the large timbers that would once have supported the crannog. Because of the cold they give you a blanket cape to wear and give you the guided tour of the place. I loved it.
After seeing the reconstructed crannog, the guide (a girl called Marion) demonstrated several ways that bronze age people would have cut wood, ground corn or made fire! That was amazing. She spun two bits of wood together until there was literally a tiny mound of smoldering sawdust. This was then put in a 'fire bowl' of fine wood shavings, and straw, etc. She then began to gently blow and blow and blow. I thought she was going to be smoked into failure, but, she persisted until the flames burst into life - and we were all really impressed! For anyone interested in Scottish history and archeology it's a great day out. The historians and archaeologists can only speculate why crannogs would be built in the first place. Could it have been for security? Well, possibly, but there weren't all that many people around in those days to be a threat. Could crannogs have been built to protect their farm animals and the people themselves from wild animals - wolves and bears? Possibly. But then, I discovered the real reason! Twenty-feet out into the water...there are no midges! These bronze-age folks weren't daft!