We have been recording and sampling in Trench 1, and yesterday we just began work opening Trench 2 at Milton Morenish crannog. Unlike at Dall Bay South, we have come across quite wildly different preservation conditions in these two trenches. In the lower Trench 1, where the crannog mound meets the silty loch bed, we have excellent preservation of organic material. At the top of the crannog, where we are placing Trench 2, preservation is much poorer.
In Trench 1 we also made the first artefact find of the project – a taper! Tapers were used as a kind of candle or lighter, quite simply, a stick with its end lit. During the Oakbank crannog excavation a substantial number of them were found.
It is interesting to think how ubiquitous items like this taper would have been in prehistory, but we don’t normally see things like this in the archaeological record. We can compare it to this quern stone which was found near the base of the crannog. They were used to grind grain and would have been equally common in daily Iron Age life. But only one of these things are commonly and characteristic parts of our understanding of Iron Age archaeology (hint: it’s the quern stone), and this is due to the fact that as stone it survives, both above and below water.
Finding a taper is just a hint at the wealth of organic material culture that we don’t have much access to when discussing the Iron Age. Excavating submerged and waterlogged crannogs offers a chance to address this, and often times in a spectacular way.