Guard Archaeology have now completed the fieldwork phase of their investigations into our new warehouse site at Coultorsay just to the south of the distillery.
Modern archaeology is a precise and scientific affair, and professionals never jump to conclusions about what they have found. Announcements are only ever made after careful analysis of the evidence that has been uncovered. This analysis is done by specialists who have examined the finds under laboratory conditions, and even then conclusions are always peer reviewed before publication. However, happily we are not subject to such academic controls – and speculation is free….!!
Maureen Kilpatrick, who has been leading the fieldwork, took us round the site as they were clearing up on the last morning. In pouring rain. Her enthusiasm in the face of what has become an epic mudbath is infectious. Describing what her team has discovered as ‘exciting’, she pointed out a large feature in the shape of a figure of eight, in the centre of which appears to be an area containing slag – which may indicate a proto-industrial metalworking site.
This figure of eight may simply indicate a configuration of drainage trenches – but it may indicate the extent of a more complex structure or building. All around were various ditches and earthworks the significance of which may at some point become clearer once the experts have had a chance to interpret the finds.
Those finds have been thin on the ground, but this is not unusual in prehistoric contexts. Perhaps the more so if this was a work area rather than a domestic context. There are some large shards of very crude pottery, some circular discs which are sometimes described as ‘pot lids’ and a collection of worked flint (actually quite modestly proportioned by Islay standards). There was also the quern stone that we mentioned in a previous post.
Perhaps the most exciting artefact found however was a fragment of what appears to be a shell bracelet. Time travel would be a wonderful thing. Imagine being able to meet the person who once wore this carefully made ornament – or witness how it was eventually lost?
So, that is the first phase of our historical exploration of the new Coultorsay warehouse site over – and many thanks to Maureen for being such a patient host during our various visits. Now it will be over to the teams of specialists in the laboratory to look at what has been discovered in more detail. We look forward to sharing their findings with you.