Fascinating archaeological finds on the Cowal peninsula

20 November 2023
A recent archaeological excavation at Glendaruel’s Stronafian Community Forest in Cowal, Argyll, has unearthed some fascinating discoveries that could date back 5,000 years.

The ‘Creag Liath’ (grey stones) dig, under the auspices of Andrew Jepson from Archaeology Scotland’s ‘Adopt-a-monument’ programme, involved 25 enthusiastic volunteers from across Cowal and further afield, as well as 40 schoolchildren from Kilmodan Primary, Strachur Primary and Dunoon Grammar.

The dig lasted 12 days from 25 September 2023 in an area that is rich in ancient history, with numerous Bronze Age and Neolithic sites nearby, including the Auchategan site discovered by Dorothy Marshall in the late 1960s. Dig organisers also ran an artefact handling workshop at Kilmodan Primary School and hosted an Open Day on site as part of Scottish Archaeology Month.

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Andrew commented: “At Creag Liath sufficient evidence was found to suggest human occupation during past explorations and this year’s dig started with the re-opening and extending of Trench 1 which had previously been located over a possible stone wall. An upright stone of considerable size was found in the trench with its presence and function triggering much debate.

“On just the second day of digging our eagle-eyed volunteers started to find pottery. The most exciting was two small sherds of reddish-brown gritty ware, identified as a rim and believed to be either Bronze Age or Neolithic in date. Further analysis needs to be conducted on the sherds to provide a clearer provenance. The same day a sherd of post-medieval pottery was located, followed by broken bottle glass.

“As the dig progressed it was clear that we had a substantial wall, approximately 1 metre in width, forming the footprint of a structure that was sub-rectangular in shape. Finding the internal turn of the wall was one of those Eureka moments!

“How the wall related to the next cell became the new challenge. Were the second and third cells contemporary with the first or did they represent a different phase of construction? Questions that further excavation will hopefully answer.

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“Trench 2, opened in 2022, was re-opened and excavation continued to determine if a stone wall formed the boundary of this cell and whether a break in the stone bank was evidence of a threshold or entrance. A new trench, Trench 3, was located over a potential sunken path leading to the entrance of the main structure and by the end of the dig this had started to reveal some intriguing contexts.

“A big thank you to all the volunteers who got involved, the many schoolchildren and staff who really got stuck in as well as to the Cruach Mhor Wind Farm Trust and Historic Environment Scotland for funding the excavation.

“The weather was, at times, challenging but everyone continued undetered and we will be back next year to further explore what is looking to be a real archaeological gem on the Cowal peninsula,” added Andrew.

Debbie Kirby, one of the volunteers involved in the dig, commented: “What an opportunity this was for the community of Glendaruel and Colintraive. Not only were we supported in the investigation of the site but we were also trained in the process. We're looking forward to finding out more about grey stones next year and hope that more volunteers will participate in what is turning out to be a very interesting prehistorical project.”

For more details please visit Stronafian Community Forest and Archaeology Scotland.