Crannog
Overview
 
A crannog is typically a partially or entirely artificial island
Artificial island
An artificial island or man-made island is an island or archipelago that has been constructed by people rather than formed by natural means...

, usually built in lake
Lake
A lake is a body of relatively still fresh or salt water of considerable size, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land. Lakes are inland and not part of the ocean and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are larger and deeper than ponds. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams,...

s, river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

s and estuarine waters of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. Crannogs were used as dwellings over five millennia from the European Neolithic Period, to as late as the 17th/early 18th century although in Scotland, Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 and Norse Period
Norsemen
Norsemen is used to refer to the group of people as a whole who spoke what is now called the Old Norse language belonging to the North Germanic branch of Indo-European languages, especially Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, Swedish and Danish in their earlier forms.The meaning of Norseman was "people...

 use is not apparent in the archaeological record. Crannogs have been variously interpreted as free-standing wooden structures, as at Loch Tay, although more commonly they exist as brush, stone or timber mounds which can be revetted with timber piles.
Encyclopedia
A crannog is typically a partially or entirely artificial island
Artificial island
An artificial island or man-made island is an island or archipelago that has been constructed by people rather than formed by natural means...

, usually built in lake
Lake
A lake is a body of relatively still fresh or salt water of considerable size, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land. Lakes are inland and not part of the ocean and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are larger and deeper than ponds. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams,...

s, river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

s and estuarine waters of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. Crannogs were used as dwellings over five millennia from the European Neolithic Period, to as late as the 17th/early 18th century although in Scotland, Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 and Norse Period
Norsemen
Norsemen is used to refer to the group of people as a whole who spoke what is now called the Old Norse language belonging to the North Germanic branch of Indo-European languages, especially Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, Swedish and Danish in their earlier forms.The meaning of Norseman was "people...

 use is not apparent in the archaeological record. Crannogs have been variously interpreted as free-standing wooden structures, as at Loch Tay, although more commonly they exist as brush, stone or timber mounds which can be revetted with timber piles. However, in areas such as the Western Isles of Scotland, timber was unavailable from the Neolithic onwards. As a result, completely stone crannogs supporting drystone architecture are common here. Today, crannogs typically appear as small, circular islets, often 10 metre in diameter, covered in dense vegetation due to their inaccessibility to grazing livestock.

Etymology and uncertain meanings

The Irish word derives from Old Irish , which referred to a wooden structure or vessel, stemming from crann, which means "tree", plus a diminutive
Diminutive
In language structure, a diminutive, or diminutive form , is a formation of a word used to convey a slight degree of the root meaning, smallness of the object or quality named, encapsulation, intimacy, or endearment...

 ending—literally "young tree". The modern sense of the term first appears sometime around the 12th century; its popularity spread in the medieval period along with the terms isle, ylle, inis, eilean, oileán There is some confusion on what the term crannog originally referred to, the structure atop the island or the island itself The additional meanings of crannog can be variously related as "structure/piece of wood; wooden pin; crow's nest
Crow's nest
A crow's nest is a structure in the upper part of the mainmast of a ship or structure, that is used as a lookout point.This position ensured the best view of the approaching hazards, other ships or land. It was the best device for this purpose until the invention of radar.In early ships it was...

; pulpit
Pulpit
Pulpit is a speakers' stand in a church. In many Christian churches, there are two speakers' stands at the front of the church. Typically, the one on the left is called the pulpit...

; driver's box on a coach and vessel/box/chest" for crannóg. The Scottish Gaelic form is and has the additional meanings of "pulpit" and "churn". Therefore, it is clear there is no real consensus of what the term crannog actually implies, although the modern adoption in the English language broadly refers to a partially or completely artificial islet which saw use from the prehistoric to the Post-Medieval period in Ireland and Scotland.

Location

Crannogs are widespread in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 with an estimated 1,200 examples while Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 "officially" contains 347 sites listed as such. The actual number in Scotland varies considerably—between approximately 350 to 500 due to the use of the term "island dun" for well over one hundred Hebridean examples—a distinction that has created a divide between mainland Scottish crannog and Hebridean islet settlement studies. Previously unknown crannogs in Scotland and Ireland are still being found as underwater surveys continue to investigate loch beds for completely submerged examples The largest concentrations of crannogs in Ireland are found in the Drumlin Belt of the midlands, the north and the northwest. In Scotland, crannogs favour a western or 'Atlantic distribution', with high concentrations in Argyll and Dumfries and Galloway. In reality, the Western Isles contains the highest density of lake-settlement in Scotland, yet they are recognised under varying terms besides crannog. One lone Welsh example at Llangorse Lake
Llangorse Lake
Llangorse Lake is the largest natural lake in south Wales, and is situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park, near to the town of Brecon and the village of Llangors....

 exists, likely a product of Irish influence across the Irish Sea

Reconstructed Irish crannógs are located in Craggaunowen
Craggaunowen
Craggaunowen - The Living Past is an archaeological open air museum in County Clare Ireland, started by John Hunt. The park, comprising a picturesque lake and idyllic woodland, is host to several examples of early historic dwelling places such as a Crannóg Craggaunowen - The Living Past is an...

, Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

; the Irish National Heritage Park, in Wexford, Ireland; and in Scotland at the "Scottish Crannog Centre" at Loch Tay, Perthshire. This centre offers guided tours and hands-on activities, including wool spinning, wood-turning and making fire, holds events to celebrate wild cooking and crafts, and hosts yearly Midsummer
Midsummer
Midsummer may simply refer to the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, but more often refers to specific European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice, or that take place on a day between June 21 and June 24, and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different...

, Lughnasadh
Lughnasadh
Lughnasadh is a traditional Gaelic holiday celebrated on 1 August. It is in origin a harvest festival, corresponding to the Welsh Calan Awst and the English Lammas.-Name:...

 and Samhain
Samhain
Samhain is a Gaelic harvest festival held on October 31–November 1. It was linked to festivals held around the same time in other Celtic cultures, and was popularised as the "Celtic New Year" from the late 19th century, following Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer...

 festivals.

Types and problems with definition

In reality, crannogs took on many different forms and methods of construction based upon what was available in the immediate landscape; there is no single "correct" way to construct a crannog. The classic image of a prehistoric crannog stems from both Post-Medieval illustrations and highly influential excavations such as Milton Loch in Scotland by C.M. Piggot after World War II. The Milton Loch interpretation is of a small islet surrounded or defined at its edges by timber piles and a gangway, topped by a typical Iron Age roundhouse. The choice of a small islet as a home may seem odd today, yet waterways were the main channels for both communication and travel until the 19th century in much of Ireland and especially Highland Scotland. Crannogs are traditionally interpreted as being simple farmsteads in prehistory. Additional interpretations see them used as boltholes in times of danger, as status symbols with limited access and as inherited locations of power which imply a sense of legitimacy and ancestry towards ownership of the surrounding landscape.

If one employs the strict, limited definition of crannog which requires the use of timber, then sites in the Western Isles are stricken from the discussion. This caveat regarding definition has caused some debate over the years while the exclusion of Hebridean sites from most major syntheses can be seen as a shortcoming which fails to unite the common concept of living on water due to superficial typologies. If not "true" crannogs, small occupied islets (often at least partially artificial in nature) may be referred to as island duns, although rather confusingly, 22 islet-based sites are classified as 'proper' crannogs due to the different interpretations of the inspectors or excavators who drew up field reports Canmore search for crannog in the Western Isles Hebridean island dwellings or crannogs were commonly built on both natural and artificial islets, usually reached by means of a stone causeway. The visible structural remains are traditionally interpreted as a dun
Dun
Dun is now used both as a generic term for a fort and also for a specific variety of Atlantic roundhouse...

, or by the more recent terminology as an Atlantic roundhouse. This terminology has gained in recent popularity when describing the entire range of robust, drystone structures which exist in later prehistoric Atlantic Scotland.

The majority of crannog excavations were poorly conducted (by modern standards) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by early antiquarians, or were indeed purely accidental finds as lochs were drained during the improvements to increase usable farmland or pasture. Some early digs merely saw labourers haul away tons of materials with little regard to anything that was not of immediate economic value. Conversely, the vast majority of early attempts at proper excavation techniques failed to accurately measure or record stratigraphy, thereby failing to provide a secure context for artefact finds making interpretations extremely limited in scope. Preservation and conservation techniques for waterlogged materials such as logboats or structural material were all but non-existent and a number of extremely important finds perished as a result, in some instances dried out for firewood. The years from approximately 1900 to the late 1940s saw very little in the way of crannog excavation in Scotland, while Ireland did witness some important and highly influential contributions. In contrast, relatively few crannogs have been excavated since the Second World War, although this number has steadily grown, especially since the early 1980s and may soon surpass pre-war totals. The overwhelming majority of crannogs show multiple phases of occupation and re-use, often extending over centuries. This has direct implications for the way in which the re-occupiers perhaps viewed crannogs as a legacy that remained alive in local tradition and memory. The importance of crannog reoccupation is therefore evident and full of meaning, especially when many instances see crannogs built near natural islets that were often completely unused.
This long chronology of use has been verified by both radiocarbon dating and more precisely, by dendrochronology. Intrepretations of crannog function are not static through time; instead they appear to change in both the archaeological and historic records. Rather than largely simple domestic residences in prehistory, Medieval crannogs were increasingly seen as strongholds of the upper class or regional 'political players' such as Gaelic chieftains like the O'Boylans and McMahons in County Monaghan
Monaghan
Monaghan is the county town of County Monaghan in Ireland. Its population at the 2006 census stood at 7,811 . The town is located on the main road, the N2 road, from Dublin north to both Derry and Letterkenny.-Toponym:...

 and the ancient Kingdom of Airgíalla
Airgíalla
Airgíalla or Airgialla was the name of an Irish federation and Irish kingdom which first formed around the 7th century...

 up until the 17th century. In Scotland, their medieval and post-medieval use is also documented into the early 18th century. Whether this increase in 'status' is real, or just a by-product of increasingly complex material assemblages remains to be convincingly validated.

History

The earliest construction of a crannog is the completely artificial Neolithic islet of Eilean Domhnuill
Eilean Domhnuill
Armit identifies the islet of Eilean Dòmhnuill , Loch Olabhat on North Uist, Scotland as what may be the earliest crannog. Unstan ware pottery found there suggests a Neolithic period date of 3200-2800 BC...

, Loch Olabhat on North Uist
North Uist
North Uist is an island and community in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.-Geography:North Uist is the tenth largest Scottish island and the thirteenth largest island surrounding Great Britain. It has an area of , slightly smaller than South Uist. North Uist is connected by causeways to Benbecula...

 in Scotland. Eilean Domhnuill has produced radiocarbon dates ranging from 3650 to 2500 BC while Irish crannogs appear from middle Bronze Age layers at Ballinderry (1200–600 BC). Prior to the Bronze Age, the existence of artificial island settlement in Ireland is not as clear. While lake-side settlements are evident in Ireland from 4500BC these settlements are not crannogs in that they were not intended to be islands. Despite having a tremendous chronology, their use was not at all consistent or unchanging. Crannog construction and occupation reached a flourit in Scotland from approximately 800BC to AD200. Not surprisingly, crannogs have useful defensive properties, although there appears to be more significance to prehistoric use than simple defense as very few weapons or evidence for destruction appear in excavations of prehistoric crannogs. In Ireland, crannogs tend to reach a flourit during the Early Historic period when they were the homes and retreats of kings, lords, prosperous farmers and occasionally socially marginalised groups such as monastic hermits or metalsmiths who could work in isolation. However, despite earlier concepts of a strict Early Historic evoloution, Irish excavations are increasingly uncovering examples which date to the 'missing' Iron Age in Ireland.

Construction

The construction techniques for a crannog (prehistoric or otherwise) are as varied as the multitude of finished forms witnessed in the archaeological record. Island settlement in Scotland and Ireland is manifest through the entire range of possibilities ranging from entirely natural, small islets to completely artificial islets, therefore definitions will invariably remain contentious. For 'crannogs' in the strict sense, typically this effort began on a shallow reef or rise in the lochbed. When timber was available, many were surrounded by a circle of wooden piles
Deep foundation
A deep foundation is a type of foundation distinguished from shallow foundations by the depth they are embedded into the ground. There are many reasons a geotechnical engineer would recommend a deep foundation over a shallow foundation, but some of the common reasons are very large design loads, a...

 with axe-sharpened bases that were driven into the bottom, forming a circular enclosure that helped to retain the main mound and prevent erosion. The piles could also be joined together by mortise and tenon
Mortise and tenon
The mortise and tenon joint has been used for thousands of years by woodworkers around the world to join pieces of wood, mainly when the adjoining pieces connect at an angle of 90°. In its basic form it is both simple and strong. Although there are many joint variations, the basic mortise and tenon...

, or large holes cut to carefully accept specially shaped timbers designed to interlock together and provide structural rigidity. On other examples, interior surfaces were built up with any mixture of clay, peat, stone, timber or brush-what ever was available. In some instances, more than one structure was built on crannogs. Other types of crannogs simply saw the occupants add large stones to the waterline of small natural islets, extending and enlarging them over successive phases of renewal. Larger crannogs could be occupied by extended families or communal groups, and access was either by logboats or coracles while evidence for timber or stone causeways exists on a large number of crannogs. The causeways themselves may have been slightly submerged; this has been interpreted as a device to make access difficult yet this can also simply be a by-product of loch level fluctuations over the ensuing centuries or indeed millennia. Organic remains are often found in excellent condition on these water-logged sites. The bones of cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

, deer
Deer
Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

, and swine
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

 have been found in excavated crannogs while remains of wooden utensils and even dairy products can remain completely preserved for several millennia.

External links

  • https://sites.google.com/site/hebrideanarchofislands/'The Island Dwellings of North Uist'
  • Crannog.co.uk, The Scottish Crannog Centre Reconstruction of a crannog.
  • McMahonsOfMonaghan.org, Crannog illustration showing attack in Monaghan
    Monaghan
    Monaghan is the county town of County Monaghan in Ireland. Its population at the 2006 census stood at 7,811 . The town is located on the main road, the N2 road, from Dublin north to both Derry and Letterkenny.-Toponym:...

    , Ireland
    Ireland
    Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

    in the 16th century.
  • Channel4.com, Time Team on Crannogs.
  • Channel4.com, Time Team excavation at Loch Migdale, January 2004.
  • Canmore, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland's Canmore database, a searchable database of archaeological and architectural sites in Scotland, including crannogs.
  • About.com, Llangors Crannog
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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