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Achnahaird Hut Circle, Achiltibuie
Aug 26 set up/ Sep 1 clear up
Aug 27-31 Dig
• Aug 28 Open Day
• Aug 29 Primary School visit
See Finds and Results for initial
Contact us about this dig or the project...
A Volunteer's Diary
“So why am I here……… at Achnahaird?"
I am one of a group of enthusiastic amateur archaeologists investigating a
hut circle or roundhouse, the remains of a circular stone-based structure
probably dating from the Iron Age. But we don't know how old it is so we are
excavating, hoping to find datable evidence.
We have come from near and far and are so well-directed by Anna, all our
physical limitations accommodated so even I feel I have something to
contribute. We also have the expertise of Martin, a professional
archaeologist. He too is a volunteer for one of the three days he is with
us. He is an enthusiast as well.
I have come here to develop an understanding of this site within its wild
and beautiful landscape, to gain a sense of this place over time. I have
come here to learn new skills: surveying the site including how to use a
plane table and to record levels, drawing, soil sampling and recording
finds. I have come to brush up on other skills like photography and to share
my enthusiasm and meagre knowledge with visitors to the site including
children from the local primary school. Over the course of the five days I
get to know the other enthusiasts as we work or enjoy a break together. I
enjoy hearing what others have learned on similar digs and what ideas they
have about this site and what we have found. Tea breaks and lunchtime are
important, we need to rest and we need to enjoy the wonderful home baking! I
have come here to glean a better understanding of the past we share in
The weather is, on the whole, kind to us and although there is one day on
which the midges launch a full-scale attack, intent on dire torment, we are
prepared and undaunted. In the evenings, there is the pleasure of exploring
the nearby villages and coastline. We enjoy excellent food at the local pub
or gather in Cathy’s home; she is one of the local people who has done so
much to support this excavation.
Our findings have been modest, many “potboilers" and hammer stones. We have
found some very delicate charcoal that will be sent for carbon dating. The
hearth was elusive and the entrance not where it appeared to be. The
structure we were excavating was probably built on top of another but our
time has run out and we must replace all the stones, soil and turf. Soon the
bracken and heather will grow over it again and when we return we will need
to search once more for that telltale outline.
So why am I here? Because of those nagging questions: who were my ancestors,
how did they live and what sustained them?
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NC 02297 12650
Lots of bracken to clear from the site. We had stalwart and invaluable help
from David G and Gerry K. We managed to plane table the roundhouse and to peg out the
Eager volunteers appeared. We did a tour of the site and surroundings, then
erected notices and deturfed the trenches.
An array of campervans of various sizes lined up hopefully in the carpark.
Lots of eager volunteers emerged. A windy rain shower began the day.
Trowelling began. Martin arrived and regular cake from Cathy kept us going.
Ali Beag made us a lethal weapon for forcing stones from the wall fill and
he mended our turf edger with great skill.
Weather wet and windy all day (windy means gale force!!). with spells of
sunshine. Achiltibuie Primary visited. Irene organised activities for the
older ones and in the afternoon the wee ones came to see what we were doing.
The children were happy and didn’t want to go back to school!
We found that there were two phases of roundhouse occupation. A number of
cracked stones and some smooth faced stone tools were found. Some diggers
got excited over a phallic shaped stone wedge in the wall core! Jeremy’s
posthole under the later phase wall was an important discovery. Lots of
visitors dropped by including a party of 12 interested Germans who did not
No wind –but much worse—a plague of midges so thick that sometimes we
couldn’t see through our midge nets. Cake still available but not sufficient
to cheer us up! Most of the trenches were fully dug. We all persevered
bravely and drawings were completed, albeit covered with black smudged midge
corpses. . After work all 9 diggers who were staying in the area went to
suss out the local broch and then to a convivial meal at Cathy’s home.
Sun at last. We backfilled the trenches and said goodbye to the amazing
Achiltibuie vistas over land and sea.
NEW EXCITING RESULTS!
The results are back from the radiocarbon tests analysed by SUERC.
Go to Radiocarbon Results page for more