Loch Awe crannogs 1972 why now?


This is old history, decades out of date. Why are you publishing this now?

We (K and Duncan McArdle) are now getting ready to move to somewhere warmer than Aberdeenshire. We are in process of clearing out contents of the farmhouse we've lived in since 1973 (the year after we finished the Loch Awe survey). Re-reading the dog-eared and dusty records of the NACSAC beano, it strikes us that there ought to be a full record of exactly what we were trying to do, how we did it—thanks to those Naval Air Command guys—and what we all achieved.

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These are Highland ponies, by the way; like horses with short legs, not the small black ones (= Shetland ponies). They are part of the genetic C1 group of post-glacial northern European ponies with prehistoric domestication in this North Sea area. The former crofters' small workhorse, they are still used for hill estate work (deer saddle on lower pony) and everything else.
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We published the basic information about the survey, with our main conclusions, at the time, but in specialist publications. We left the main body of the report for our geographer colleague at the time, Ian Morrison, to use in his wider work then in preparation. He was a career academic; we were moving away to the country to breed Highland ponies, where we've been ever since. K in fact had to give up her crannog PhD two years into the project. It was then taken up by Nick Dixon, now an authority on crannogs.

Our version

But being written up in someone else's book—albeit a good friend and cross-discipline team member—doesn't show the full, raw, results, or tell simply how it was carried out. So if anyone is interested in the original source, here it is in fuller form than the brief published articles, or Ian's book.

It will also show, we hope, how feasible it was to carry out a field survey in a loch then. You can compare how it would be done today. Far more convenient survey systems are now to hand, including GPS, to lighten the tasks. More diving archaeologists to call on nowadays for a team? but you'll still meet the same problems of assessment, logistics and environment.

Safety first and last

One thing I hope we transmit, and any future expeds should take note of, is the level of safe professionalism that the Naval Air Command divers brought to us weekenders. It's cold in a Scottish loch, whatever the time of year, and the amphibious work is tiring. It's neither fin diving nor dry-ground archaeology. Much of the time you are in mud, or scrambling up a half-submerged slope of rocks and boulders, always in dark water, often with very poor visibility—by, or in, deep enough water to drown you. After all, that's why the crannog builders put it there, to be difficult to get at. The death of an experienced diver has happened, in less than 30 ft of water, off a crannog in Loch Tay, in broad daylight. The same, or better, precautions and procedures as marine work need to be taken on and off these heaps of stones, when you can be half-suited and encumbered with gear. Not the same risks as deep diving, just different risks—but not, I assure you, less lethal ones.




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