Dig Morlaggan 2011

Following the success of Phase 1 of Dig Morlaggan, a second community excavation took place in April/May 2011.



We’re grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Argyll and the Islands LEADER
and the Robert Kiln Trust for funding Dig Morlaggan 2011,
and to Luss Estates for their permission to excavate the site.

The dig was run by professional archaeologists who provided volunteers with training in digging, recording and surveying, and/or processing finds.

img_00016The site director was Roddy Regan. Roddy has worked as a professional archaeologist for 22 years, having been employed as a site director on large sites in Britain, Italy and Turkey. He has recently directed a number of community excavations for Kilmartin House Museum in Argyll, including Bronze Age, Iron Age and post-Medieval sites. Roddy was site director with overall responsibility for Phase 1 of the excavations at High Morlaggan, in 2009.
img_0001_17Clare Ellis has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1996, including running her own business, Argyll Archaeology, since 2003. She works as a soil specialist, as well as a field archaeologist and fieldwork sector manager, specialising in sites on the west coast of Scotland. Clare has worked on numerous volunteer-based archaeological projects, many in association with Kilmartin House Museum, and was also employed as a field archaeologist during Phase 1 of the High Morlaggan dig.
heather-with-pot-sherdHeather James gained her degree in Archaeology and Geography from Exeter University and has since worked in Scottish Archaeology for many years, including for the Central Excavation Unit and for GUARD. She has co-authored a monograph on the Hilton of Cadboll Pictish cross-slab and on excavations on the Isle of May. She completed her doctorate on Medieval settlement in Argyll in 2009. Heather was in charge of training and supervising volunteers at the latest dig at Morlaggan. Heather now works for Northlight Heritage.


Excavations have only just finished, so conclusions will have to wait until we’ve washed off the mud and had a chance to look at the data and send the finds off to specialists for analysis. However, think we can say that we’ve succeeded in finding evidence of earlier occupation of the site, with extensive modifications of the buildings taking place over the years. Watch this space – the report will be freely available as soon as it’s written!

Many thanks to Survey Solutions Scotland for their kind loan of an EDM, which allowed us to produce a plan to put the excavated buildings in the context of the wider landscape.

There was a fantastic turnout of volunteers who came to help – over 60 adults and more than 70 kids over the 4-week period, not counting around 30 people who just came for a look around.

Education Officers from Kilmartin House Museum organised visits by children from the local primary school. Each of the classes spent a morning digging, followed by an afternoon back at school washing and recording their finds. The museum will also be involved in processing the huge quantity of finds from the excavation.img_0001_21

img_00019We also ran a series of workshops on site during the dig. A brief introduction to surveying using a plane table showed participants how to produce an accurate plan of a building or its remains using portable and inexpensive equipment. A brilliant explanation of this technique can be found on the Scotland’s Rural Past web site.


The ‘Clanscape’ group from the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park ran a 1-day workshop on traditional rural skills. The group were able to grind grain using a traditional quern stone and make it into oatcakes for lunch, spin wool with drop spindles, make willow hurdles, and weave willow platters. Venison stew was cooked over an open fire, and traditional music provided by local musicians made a perfect day. Maybe the only downside was that the food and the music were too good, and not so much digging got done!



Tom Butcher, a local potter, gallantly carried bags of clay up the hill and showed people how to make traditional clay pipes. Assisted by local artist Janet Stanton-Maxwell, Tom guided participants through the process of hand-moulding pipes, before moving on to using press moulds to produce pipes with a range of decorative motifs. The finished products represented a bit of a change from his usual line of pottery!

We celebrated a gloriously sunny May Day at Morlaggan with a musical performance by Helen Reid-Foster (fiddle) and her daughter, Pippa (clarsach), accompanied by local pupils of Helen’s playing their fiddles or cello. Anyone who’s visited Morlaggan will appreciate the dedication required to get a clarsach and a cello up the hill, but it was more than worth the effort. Helen had composed two pieces of music especially for the occasion.


Click for an update on what’s been happening at Morlaggan since the dig finished. High Morlaggan Update.


Click on the picture to watch a film about Dig Morlaggan 2011.

Many thanks to Luss TV for putting this film together for us! It lasts for about 20 minutes, but you can start and stop it whenever you want.