Forestry Commission clearfelling reveals unrecorded Iron Age dun at Cannich

Forestry Commission Scotland [FCS] has uncovered a previously unrecorded Iron Age galleried dun near the village of at Cannich, Strathglass, thanks to some recent clearfelling work.

The site ,at Comar Wood near Cannich is on a prominent hillside with commanding views across the neighbouring valley and hillsides.

FCS Archaeologist, Matt Ritchie, says: ‘It was discovered by local forest staff during a standard pre-felling check on a woodland coupe that had reached maturity and was ready to harvest.

‘The wood was planted in 1954, and back then the dun would just have been seen as a pile of stones by the men who planted it. Luckily they didn’t try to plough the site first – that would have caused untold damage.

‘It’s an exciting find.

‘These homesteads were a very visible status symbol so belonged to a family of some power or standing. The dun served to defend the occupants and their grain stores and livestock but they also demonstrated land ownership – and what better place to site your stronghold than high on a hill where you can see for miles.’

About 21m in overall diameter and defined by a massive dry stone wall, the dun has several stretches of wall courses visible and also features a defensive outwork. It is very much in keeping with the building tradition that was common throughout the Highlands and islands of Scotland during that period.

It was found within mature Douglas fir that was due to be clear felled.

Before the main felling operation, the dun itself was cleared of trees using a specially developed flexible ‘soft-felling’ technique to avoid any structural damage to the surviving stone work.

The technique involved felling trees into a strong rope cradle suspended from neighbouring trees and then slowly lowering them to the ground for processing. This prevented any damage done to the drystone masonry by falling timber.

Matt Ritchie says: ‘It’s a fantastic addition to the stunning range of prehistoric and early historic locations on Scotland’s national forest estate that we conserve as part of our historic environment programme – places where visitors can enjoy today’s landscapes and at the same time get a glimpse of past ways of life.’

FCS is to commission an archaeological measured survey of the site but has no immediate plans to excavate further or to develop any recreational links to the site.

However, it has proposed that the site be recognized as a monument of national importance and scheduled by Historic Scotland.

Note: To find out more about the Commission’s archaeological conservation work, visit its website here – where you can download a publication showcasing the huge range of archaeology on Scotland’s national forest estate – from Neolithic stone circles to 20th century coastal defences from WWII.

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3 Responses to Forestry Commission clearfelling reveals unrecorded Iron Age dun at Cannich

    • It would not have been noticed before planting among all the vegetation and it would have blended in to the surrounding ground. After a few decades, the ground under a forestry plantation becomes bare and smooth with a covering of needles. At this stage, before the trees are cut, the slightest bump in the ground stands out quite obviously. This is when a lot of remnants are found. At Innellan, a few years ago, a previously unknown Bronze Age burial mound was found in the same way. Certainly, when I worked in forestry, I reported to a local archaeologist many dozens of platforms and also many bloomeries and remnants of buildings which had previously been unknown. These were very noticable where there was no other growth on the ground.

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  1. From the actual news article above ‘The wood was planted in 1954, and back then the dun would just have been seen as a pile of stones by the men who planted it. Luckily they didn’t try to plough the site first – that would have caused untold damage.

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