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Living on Water The early Iron Age crannog-dwellers of Loch Tay

Loch Tay looking west. In this photograph are four submerged crannogs, Oakbank, Mary’s Distaff, Fearnan and Croftmartaig

Crannogs are among the most enigmatic features of the Scottish Iron Age. Built as artificial island dwellings, often hundreds of metres into lochs, these sites are found right across Scotland. Today, they appear mostly as small islets, with some stunted trees often found clinging to these rocky eminences. However, many more are completely submerged beneath the waters of lochs and are never seen.

There are over 600 crannogs recorded in Scotland, and with over 30,000 lochs in the country (only three of which have been systematically surveyed), doubling the currently recorded figure would be a conservative estimate for the total number in the country. Factor in that the cold, dark and low-oxygen conditions of Scottish lochs preserve organic material exceptionally well, and it is likely that Scottish crannogs contain more archaeological material than any other single class of monument in Europe.

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History Scotland
March - April 2018

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