Project and Fieldwork 2001 - 2002

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe 2006

Community excavation prospecting for a possible West Barbicans supervised by Field Archaeology Specialists, York. The excavation revealed multi phase structural features and occupation debris.

All content © caithness archaeological trust 2004

unless otherwise stated

Broch project - White Gate Broch, Keiss - year 1

White Gate broch is one of a cluster of three maritime brochs located at Keiss a nineteenth century fishing community. It is one of the many brochs excavated by Sir Francis Tress Barry the 19th century mining engineer, politician and antiquarian. White Gate like its near and much larger neighbour, Harbour broch, is located on the foreshore not far above the current tide-line.

As with other 'Tress Barry brochs' it was not backfilled after his 19th century excavation which meant that any remaining archaeological deposits lay just below the modern turf. The community excavation was directed by Dr Andy Heald of the National Museums of Scotland, and AOC Archaeology Ltd.

Roadside Broch - Keiss

Keiss Road is a magnificent broch site with a central broch and a surrounding village. The broch is likely to have been built between 300 BC and 300 AD while the village elements now visible may be more recent; possibly by several centuries.

The initial archaeological excavation of Broch, supervised by John Barber of AOC Archaeology Group, began on 17 July 2006 and ran to the end of the month. The current excavations are only the start; more extensive excavations are planned for the future.

Professional archaeologists assisted by members of the local community excavated small areas across the site to provide footings for the safe-access walkways necessary before more extensive works can begin.

This project forms part of the 'River of Stone' Programme, a community based archaeology programme that harnesses heritage projects for community and local economic development, under the auspices of the Caithness Archaeological Trust.

Spittal year 3

The Early Architecture Research Programme (EARP) continued in A&D Sutherland's quarry at Spittal. The programme of involved the modern reconstructions of Neolithic Chambered Cairns and an Iron Age Broch. The team, led by John Barber of AOC Archaeology Group, has built and demolished a series of early structures in controlled experiments designed to increase the understanding of the architecture and engineering of these complex monuments.

The 2006 season saw the controlled demolition of parts of the now complete chamber of a Neolithic long cairn (modelled on examples over 5,000 years old). The collapse was initiated by simulating the robbing-out of stone from the structure causing destabilisation and ultimate collapse. The collapsed remains were then 'excavated' and recorded in a forensic examination of their structures. Lessons learned at Spittal will be applied to original monuments to assist us in understanding and interpreting them, and to assist in their conservation for future generations.

Work also progressed on the construction of a round cairn. The aim was to allow the investigation of the structural implications of piercing a circular corbelled structure with a rectangular passage. Different methods of distributing the loading around the passage are to be studied.

A controlled collapse of a segment of a half-scale broch (modelled on examples some 2,000 years old) was also initiated. The mound of debris was also excavated and recorded the data from this work is currently being analysed. The Early Building Project is part of the River of Stone Programme, a community based archaeology programme that harnesses heritage projects for community and local economic development.


The River of Stone and the Early Buildings Project are conducted under the auspices of the Caithness Archaeological Trust and AOC Archaeology Group and is assisted by members of the local community and supported by local businesses, the Highland Council and Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise.

Stone rows - Battle Moss

The summer of 2006 saw the final season of excavation at Battle Moss on the east side of Yarrows Loch, Caithness. Earlier seasons in 2003 and 2005 focused on a set of multiple stone rows, thought to be late Neolithic / early Bronze Age, and a multi-phase Bronze Age Cairn that the rows appear to align on. The excavations have so far demonstrated that the cairn underwent at least three phases of use during the early and middle Bronze Ages (c 2500-1700 BC).

The 2006 season concentrated on a pit feature found within, and pre-dating, the Early Bronze Age phase of the cairn.

Crannog Research

Crannogs were a major feature of later prehistoric settlement, and are found in large numbers in Scotland's lochs. The majority of them seem to have been occupied in the period from around 500BC to 800AD, though some continued in use until the late medieval period.

Submerged sites such as crannogs are of great value to archaeologists, because water-logging can preserve timber structures and delicate organic artifacts that are otherwise rarely preserved on land.

Underwater archaeologists from AOC Archaeology Group and the University of Nottingham undertook pioneering surveys of the now submerged crannogs, or artificial island settlements, of Caithness. The intention was to take samples from these crannogs for radiocarbon dating. It was hoped that the survey of the crannogs in the Loch of Yarrows, Loch Calder, Loch Watten and Loch Scarmclate would add a further dimension to our understanding of prehistoric settlement in Caithness.