Volunteers wanted to help explore archaeological mystery

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Volunteer archaeologists are invited to set aside time on Saturday 11 September to join a team of experts as they investigate a recent archaeological find.

Uncovered by the Forestry Commission Scotland’s North Highland team when they were preparing ground for tree planting, the site at Craggie, in Glen Oykel, was identified as an ironworking site by members of the North of Scotland Archaeology Society (NOSAS).

Commission archaeologist, Matt Ritchie, said:

“It was a few lumps of unusual metal slag that tipped off the Society members and they quite properly notified us about their find.

“It’s really quite an unusual find and at the moment we don’t know much about it. We don’t yet know how big the site is or even whether it’s prehistoric or medieval - and we’re looking for volunteers to come and help us explore the site and help us clear up the mystery."

As part of the preparation work for tree planting a large number of small pits were dug to provide earth for the mounds which hold the young trees. One pit in particular revealed large blocks of iron slag - the waste product left after smelting iron ore to produce the metal bloom.

Matt explained:

“These lumps of slag were the result of a process that involved digging up naturally occurring bog ore, washing it and cleaning it to remove soil and rock and then crushing it for smelting in a small furnace.

“The raw iron produced was solid - it did not run as molten metal - and had to be dug out of the furnace. The waste was discarded nearby in what we now refer to as bloomery mounds – and these sites can usually be dated from the medieval period.”

Forestry Commission Scotland, in partnership with archaeologists from Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) and NOSAS, now plans to investigate this mysterious ironworking site and is looking for volunteers to come and help.

Matt said:

“There’s a lot to do and a lot to discover – we don’t even know how many bloomeries there are on this site so anyone who is interested in mysteries and our hidden history is welcome to come along and help us find out more.

“Who knows, maybe something that you find will help us to piece the site’s history together.”

Anyone taking part should be prepared for a day in the Scottish outdoors and be equipped with stout boots, waterproofs and warm clothes. The day’s explorations will run from 10am until 4pm so you should also bring your own refreshments.

If you would like to take part in the programme of field walking (looking for surface material in the mounds), please book a place by contacting Matt at
matthew.ritchie@forestry.gsi.gov.uk  or 01463252635.


e-mail: paul.munro@forestry.gsi.gov.uk