What sparks your author imagination?
Earlier this week, I made a return trip to a highly specialised museum /visitor centre named The Scottish Crannog Centre. This attraction is located at Kenmore, Loch Tay, Perthshire, Scotland. Opened in 1997 to the public, this incredible facility contains a reconstruction of a particular kind of late Iron Age dwelling – a crannog. Crannog evidence has been found in Scotland and Ireland almost exclusively, with only one or two known examples in England.
After various archaeological diving expeditions in Loch Tay, over a period of 20 years (approx 1980-2000) the area was recorded as a site of multiple crannog dwellings. It’s believed that the art of crannog building occurred over a very long period of time, from pre-historic times through to perhaps the 16th or 17th centuries, in some form or another, on the artificial islands which are now to be found in the loch. Some of these artificial islands have evolved as debris from collapsed wooden dwellings after abandonment.
Scottish lochs are peppered with similar artificial islands.
How were archaeologists able to organise the re-creation of a pre-historic dwelling?
Underwater surveys of the area near the village of Fearnan (Loch Tay) have provided evidence so well preserved that image interpretations of the crannogs were possible. Even using carbon dating, the habitation dates of the Oakbank Crannog at Fearnan isn’t easy to determine, but it’s thought to have been occupied between 400 and 595 BC- Early Iron Age in Scotland.
Some evidence may also show that the site was also occupied during the late first century AD and then abandoned. I liked that bit of knowledge since it ties in with activities I wrote about in After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks, Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series when the advance of 10,000 Ancient Roman legionaries forced Celtic tribespeople to abandon their homes and flee to the highlands.
The way of life in the crannogs can be interpreted very accurately since the wood used in the construction has been well preserved under the water. For some time after the Oakbank Crannog was abandoned, after some 200 years of use, stones systematically covered the largely wooden debris on the loch bed. The covering of stones has helped to preserve what lay beneath for many centuries. Bit by precious bit, the area was excavated under water and surprising results were found.
The support timbers of the roundhouse were easily discernible. From other timber evidence, it was possible to build up a picture of how the flooring was constructed. Three layers of alder tree trunks were used to create the floor, the poles lying parallel on top of each other. On top of that, brackens and ferns were used as insulation and to make it easier to walk on.
Mosses were used for wall insulation and for medicinal purposes as well- as padding for open wounds and possibly for the reasons we use tissue paper today!
Many wooden and stone objects were uncovered under bracken remains which demonstrate daily cooking and storage usage – some of these available to see in the small museum.
Being inside the crannog is an incredible experience- albeit quite a dark one. When I’ve described a crannog village, or a Celtic roundhouse, in my Celtic Fervour Series it was my memories of the Kenmore Crannog which made it possible for me to imagine and then write those scenes.
Re-enveloping myself in the atmosphere of the crannog earlier this week was an indescribable joy- the curator taking a box of my novels and setting them up for sale in the souvenir shop was another. I just hope that the international visitors to the Crannog shop will buy my books and will appreciate my efforts to recreate late Iron Age in northern Britain.
This blog isn’t the place for a hugely long description but if you want more details click the link to my own blog below where there’s even more coverage of this wonderful setting.
Maybe a place like this has encouraged some of your inspiration to be sparked as well?
Have a lovely weekend!
Nancy Jardine’s author page with novels available on AMAZON