Guide Crannóg 33

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Audio: North American English pronunciation of "crannog" by speech synthesizer.

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Britannica Encyclopedia: crannog [dwelling] in Scotland and Ireland, artificially constructed sites for houses or settlements; they were made of timber, sometimes of stone, and were usually Columbia Encyclopedia: lake dwelling pile dwelling prehistoric habitation built over the shallow waters of a lake shore or a marsh, usually erected on pile-supported platforms, but sometimes on A fresh-water lake and the fertile pastures around it would have been a valuble resource desired by many. By exploiting the trade which moved along these lines, by boat or by foot, some platforms could have enriched themselves or become centres for bartering and exchange.

A plan of this shape is rather easy to achieve, which may be one of the reasons why the Medieval Irish favoured it so much in their homes and settlements. A circle can be created by simply placing one end of a predetermined length of rope at a central point, held by a kneeling person or tied to a short stick, and pulling tightly on the opposite end as you move around the fixed centre.

This will create a relatively even and equidistant circle.

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Depending on local resources or requirements, the planned lake-dwelling could range from four or five metres in diameter to over thirty-five. The interior area was filled with alternate layers of rock, peat and broken brushwood, the order of stratification changing from site to site. As an added advantage, this also gave a non-combustible floor to live upon. In the event of a serious conflagration, accidental or deliberate, the islands would have been more of a trap than a haven.

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Though prehistoric populations in Ireland and Scotland were capable of incredible feats of construction, other activities, from farming to hunting, child-rearing to cooking, still required their daily attention in order to survive. In terms of access, while narrow bridges of timber planking or wattle may have existed, most islands seem to have relied on stone and turf causeways for entry.

Close confinement between different sexes or species might also have caused problems. However this does not guarantee that these locations were occupied at all times throughout the year, or even from year to year.

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Invariably these were based on the well-known Irish or Celtic roundhouse and its derivatives. However such dwellings were somewhat smaller than their European counterparts. They were probably laid out using the rope method described above, creating a circular floorplan on which a woven wall of rods was crafted. This was gradually built up to form the shape of a tall round-bottomed bowl, with the wall and roof almost seamless.

When erected this would have looked something like an upside-down basket sitting on a base of hard-compacted earth. This entrance invariably faced the east or south-east, partly to avoid the prevailing westerly and south-westerly winds, but also to provide heat and light from the morning sun inside the dark structure for the early rising inhabitants.


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For the Medieval Irish and Scots and their ancestors before them the day began and ended with sunrise and sunset. Across the entrance was placed a door of plank or more likely wickerwork, possibly quite thick for both security and weatherproofing reasons, though the poor might have foregone this. Following the initial stage of construction an external wall was placed around the first, stopping at the top of the inner wickerwork just before it curved up to form the doomed roof.

The space between the two lines of wicker was packed with insulating material, wool and fur, while some effort was made to ensure that the rods used in the weaving were placed in such a manner that the sharp or cut ends always faced the hidden cavity, leaving smoothly woven walls inside and outside the house.

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Irish stories indicate that brightly-coloured feathers may have been added to some roofs, for insulation or as decoration, perhaps as a sign of wealth. Though the claims may be fanciful they remind us that these structures may have been far more ornate than we can assume form archaeological finds. The roof, external wall and outer filling materials, open to the elements, could have been fixed or replaced with relative ease, leaving the interior intact.

The absence of load-supporting posts, beyond those in the double-wall, also ensured that there was a more open and usable living space inside. The wider the circumference of the walls, the higher the resultant weaved dome of the roof. After a certain point, if the diameter was too great, the roof would have been too high to be reached for construction, or even to support itself especially with the weight of a rain-soaked thatch.

Sure, there are different levels of help and assistance you can receive from construction workers. In my time in commercial archaeology I encountered a wide range of them from obstructive, unmitigated swine to those that lived up to their legal obligations. Even Prince Charles and Camilla came to have a look.


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  8. But this still bugs me. The reason that the Drumclay crannog initially ended up on TV and radio was not through the wonders of the finds. At the very start, the only reason that the site received any coverage was because a number of people vocally and vociferously campaigned for the excavation to be given more time and funding. It was only after the then Minister of the Environment, Alex Attwood, visited the site and was convinced of its importance that positive change was effected.

    While the wording is literally true, it distorts the truth and misrepresents the actual events to the point that they bear no real relation to the facts. Look at it the other way about — when you read that sentence which is true , do you get any impression that Minister Attwood turned up on site as a result of the public and political scrutiny that the site came under? Do you get any feeling that it was Minister Attwood who dictated the terms of the exclusion zone around the site and insisted that the excavation be properly funded?

    Crannóg, The Island Lake Dwelling Of Celtic And Medieval Ireland – AN SIONNACH FIONN

    A series of excellent open days were organised [ here ], along with a very well attended one day conference in Enniskillen [ here ]. What the statement fails to acknowledge is that there is a vast amount of post-excavation work yet to be completed before the site can be properly analysed and published. While the engineers and construction folks are getting together and awarding each other prizes, this fact is being ignored. It delivered a rescue excavation carried out to a very high professional standard and to an integrated research design in a highly pressurised environment.

    Of course there was a hugely significant site here and it was excavated to a remarkably high standard. This is the same person who that tempestuously interrogated the site crew when the situation was publicised on this blog. It is also the same person who summarily dismissed one employee for admitting to passing on evidence of the rich finds and well-preserved structures that survived there.

    In conversation with Rodney Moffett , the Associate Director of Amey NI, he attempted to defend Declan Hurl and the conduct of the Phase 1 excavation to the best of his ability, though he was somewhat nuanced in his tone. Yes, I would accept that he probably was.

    Was he professionally efficient in his role? But why does this matter?

    Life in a crannog

    At its simplest level, it suggests that Doran Consulting failed to do their job of verifying the submission well or even at all. It suggests that CEEQUAL have damaged their reputation by awarding a prize to a troubled project, thus giving some veneer of undeserved success. If one of the nominees can be demonstrated to having massaged the facts sufficiently to get a Highly Commended out of this, it can only raise questions about the value of the actual winners.