Argyll Archaeology

Argyll Archaeology - Projects

Some recent commercial projects

Excavation in advance of development of the European Marine Science Park at Dunstaffnage in Argyll revealed multi-phased activity from the Neolithic into the Early Historic period. An irregular row of fire-pits, interpreted as funerary pyres, were oriented east-west and incorporated an infant inhumation and a cobble path. Dating of charcoal revealed that the fire-pits were probably in use for a number of generations during the Late Iron Age. The firepits were located on the edge of wet ground and it is postulated that these were deliberately located on what may have been perceived as a liminal boundary to aid passage into the afterlife. Activity shifted to the drier ground in the Early Historic period, late 7th to 9th century, in the form of an extended farmstead within which barley and oats were being dried in a kiln. Evidence for possible barns and/or houses survive in the form of a posthole structure, a post built wattle and daub structure, at least one basket pit boiler and a number of cobble hearths. One pit contained ten metal artefacts thought to be derived from agricultural implements. The duration of use of the farmstead appears to have been relatively short and it may have been seasonally occupied. The report is to be shortly published in Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports and will be freely available to download.



section through a large ditch
Cobble line pit containing infant burial, the remains of the skull can just be made out on the left side of the base of the pit

A controlled topsoil strip in Kilmartin Glen and undertaken in advance of the construction of a new house revealed the survival of a ring-ditch roundhouse. This is the first excavated prehistoric domestic structure of this type to be identified and excavated in Argyll west of Loch Lomond and is therefore a very exciting discovery. The ring-ditch was surrounded by a series of postholes that would have supported a roof structure. At least two phases of occupation are evident from the ring-ditch fills, the first dates to the Middle Bronze age and the second to the Early Iron Age. The large number of postholes and their positioning indicates that at least some of the roof supports were replaced, presumably because they had started to rot. Within the backfilled ring-ditch a number of saddle querns (used for grinding cereal grain) and a variety of stone and flint tools were recovered. The saddle querns had been deliberately placed face down at the bottom of the ditch, this appears to have taken place at the end of the first phase of occupation. A large pit filled with a mass of charcoal was also excavated on the outside of the house and dates to the 9th or 10th century AD.



ring-ditch roundhouse after excavation
Ring-ditch roundhouse after excavation


An evaluation in advance of a large housing development at Glenshellach in Oban revealed the presence of prehistoric archaeology buried beneath the topsoil.
Subsequent excavation, has revealed a complex site with a possible Neolithic house and other evidence for Neolithic occupation, a burnt mound, two Middle Bronze Age roundhouses and one enormous Late Iron Age roundhouse next to a micro-souterrain. In addition an abandoned farmstead has been excavated, including a house, a barn, a workshop and a turf built longhouse. This farmstead was only occupied for about 25 years before it was abandoned.


Roundhouse following excavation at Glenshellach, Oban
Bronze Age roundhouse under excavation



Recent excavation at Dunbeg in advance of a new housing development revealed a series of 6 roundhouses, a burnt mound and a series of burial pits.

Five of the roundhouses have internal ditches that are interpreted as cellars.

The roundhouses would have had wooden floor, sections of which could be lifted to allow access to the cellar. In addition wood lined flues that ran under the wooden floors lead out from the central hearth, through the entrance porch and in a couple of cases the flue diverted into the cellar to ensure that air circulated through the cellar keeping the contents cool and fresh.


Dunbeg dig
Dunbeg Dig

Community Archaeology

Baliscate excavation, Isle of Mull

The excavation at Baliscate was a research based community project led by Argyll Archaeology. Over 50 volunteers were trained in a variety of archaeological techniques and 179 school children visited the site along with 29 teachers and assistants. The excavation revealed the site to have its origins in the Late Iron Age /Early Historic period. A 7th to 8th century Christian burial ground was then established on the site and may have replaced the earlier ‘pagan’ settlement. Shortly afterwards a large enclosure bank, the monastic vallum, was constructed which would have defined the boundary of the Early Christian monastery. A leacht (an outdoor altar) was built in the 9th or 10th century and may have been used for liturgies that would have taken place at specific points along a processional route around the monastic complex. The visible remains of a structure within a sub-rectangular structure date to late 13th or early 14th century and may have been used as a chapel and/or farmhouse or farm buildings. The work was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Leader and Mull Museum.

Baliscate under excavation.
Baliscate under excavation.


Kilfinan walkover survey, Cowal

The walkover survey of Kilfinan community woodland was led by Argyll Archaeology. The volunteers and apprentices participated in the week of survey which was preceded by a training day in which volunteers were taught techniques such as feature recognition, measured survey, archaeological photography and basic orienteering. The team from Argyll Archaeology was assisted by around 20 members of the local community (children to retirees) as well as some holiday makers. A small number of features were recorded including: a single sheiling; a head-dyke and other enclosure banks; a series of weirs and holding tanks; a curling pond; a small portion of a 18th century or earlier track; a number of quarries; areas of peat cutting; and a section of 19th century dam wall. The work was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The survey team at one end of a sheiling.
The survey team at one end of a sheiling.


Lismore, decorated medieval stone slabs, Lismore

The location of eight ornately carved medieval graves slabs within Lismore Parish Church graveyard was recorded on plan and photographed in situ prior to their lifting and removal to indoor storage for subsequent drying and conservation. The slabs were careful lifted by Rowan StoneWorks. Lismore primary school was also visited on completion of the fieldwork and an informal presentation given to the 8 children on the role of an archaeologist, as well as a brief resume of the work involved in lifting the stones. The archaeological excavation of the footprint of the new display shelter for the grave slabs is to happen this spring or early summer. The work is funded by Historic Scotland and Heritage Lottery Fund.

Preparing to lift a slab.
Preparing to lift a slab.


Please contact Dr Clare Ellis ('member of the CIFA' and 'CIFA 2368')
for further information and quotations:
email -
or telephone/fax 01586 550239.


Argyll Archaeology


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