Loch Awe crannogs 1972 – why now?
This is old history, 38 years out of date. Why are you publishing this now?
We (K and Duncan McArdle) are still thinking about getting ready to move to somewhere warmer than Aberdeenshire. We are in process of clearing out contents of the farmhouse we've lived in for 37 years (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.
We published the basic information about the survey, with our main conclusions, at the time, but in specialist publications. We handed over the body of the archaeological report to our colleague at the time, Ian Morrison. It became the basis of his crannogs-in-the-landscape book which appeared as a result. His slant on the results, being basically a geographer, was in the land-use relating to the crannogs and the geomorphology influencing their construction and siting.
He was a career academic and had use for the info; 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, then taken up by Dr Nick Dixon, now the major authority on crannogs.
But being written up in someone else's book — albeit a good friend and collaborator of the time — doesn't quite portray our view of the results, or memory of how it happened. Even if there are few extra details or finds to reveal, if anyone is interested in the original source, here it is in fuller form than the brief published articles, and 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, perhaps? but you'll still meet the same problems of assessment, logistics and environment.
Safety first and last
One thing I hope we will transmit, and any future expeds will 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 can be tiring. It's neither fin diving nor dry-ground archaeology; half 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. A 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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