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Top photo by Antonio Martínez Cortizas. Bottom by Sam Jones.

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The island of Tiree is the most westerly island in the inner Hebrides. It has a rich archaeological record spanning prehistoric & historic times. Tiree was chosen for palaeoenvironmental investigations because  it is believed to be the location of at least one Columba monastic centre from the 6th/7th centuries AD, farming communities have lived on the island from prehistoric to historic times, and because archaeological finds suggest the island was impacted by Vikings and later Norse settlement from the 9th century AD.



the aims of this investigation are:

a) To see whether periods of prosperity & periods of crisis can be identified in the palaeoenvironmental record between the prehistoric Iron Age and the early medieval periods.

b) To see if a change in economy & more intense pastoral signal can be identified from the late 9th - 10th centuries AD and whether these results can be compared with findings from Iona.

Fieldwork 20th-23rd June 2023

The 20th and 23rd were days of travelling - so our main fieldwork days were the 21st-22nd June: Fieldwork team: Myself, Tim Mighall, Ewan Campbell Antonio-Martinez Cortizas & John (Doc Holiday)

21st June - Fieldwork day 1:

In the morning we met Ian MacArthur who showed us onto Lochs na’ Fang & Garradh a’Chapuill. We also had a little help from his horse :) The 1st loch was too shallow, but the 2'nd loch produced a promising 1m core with some distinct sediment changes. It is a shallow core but crossing my fingers the C14 dates will give us an early Medieval sequence. Ian also helped carry our equipment and me and John to the 2nd Loch using his quadbike and sheep pen :) which was much appreciated. 

In the afternoon we tried Loch a’Chair & Loch Stanall but unfortunately these sites were not productive. 


John  (Doc Holiday) & myself in the sheep pen :) with Ian MacArthur

Loch Garradh a'Chapaill

Ian's horse (& photos below) at Loch na' Fang. Very similar to a big puppy.

A helping mouth :)

Loch Garradh a'Chapaill with Antonio, John, Tim & Ewan & me taking the photo.


Loch Garradh a'Chapaill core 0-50 cm

Loch Garradh a'Chapaill core 36-76 cm

22nd June - Fieldwork Day 2:


Island House ditch and potentially the site of a former crannog as well as a Medieval castle. The sediments were buried under 20-30 cm of sand. We were able to extract around half a metre of sediments incorporating an occupational layer which may be Iron Age or early Medieval. I have already sub-sampled the layer and will be sending the sample off to the CHRONO centre in Belfast soon to find out how old it is.

Group photo from Island House. From left to right: Antonio, Ewan, Me & Tim. John is taking the photo.

Island House core sample


In the afternoon we drove to the north of the island to look for Loch an Fhaing which is located next to the Broch at Dun Mor Vaul & close to a potential Norse settlement. Initially I was  pessimistic about coring the loch given that only 1 loch out of 4 yesterday was productive, but this site produced a 1.10 cm core. It is not deep, and thus the 14C dates may not cover the time period we are after. The loch has also undergone some modifications during the Medieval period, but again I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping. We should know in about 3 months time.

The Broch

Views from the surrounding area

Coring at Loch an Fhaing

Radiocarbon dates so far inconclusive. I have sent a further date from Loch Garradh a'Chapuill as the sequence does contain an early Medieval date. The problem is a sharp transition between the early Medieval date and prehistoric sequence suggests their may be several hiatuses possibly linked to peat cutting. I am crossing my fingers with this site though, but it might not work.

The radiocarbon dates from the other 2 sites are equally inconclusive but we have agreed to pause dating on these for the time being to ensure enough funds are available for the other sites first.

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