The Artificial Islets of the Central Inner Hebrides:
First Approaches


The central aim of this study is the examination of the artificial islets of the central Inner Hebrides in order to understand their structural composition and spatial positioning in the landscape. Another goal is to investigate how the central Inner Hebridean sites compare with other artificial islets in Scotland.

Crannogs have been studied, through survey and excavation, on the mainland of Scotland since the middle of the nineteenth century. Work has been carried out more recently in the Outer Hebrides on sites, commonly known as island duns, which contrast in form with the sites on the mainland. No systematic work has previously been carried out on the artificial islets of the Inner Hebrides although a number of them, such as Loch Ba, on Mull, were referred to in the past. This thesis examines the artificial islets of the Inner Hebrides with emphasis given to a detailed case study of the islands of Mull, Coll, Tiree, and Islay.

Initially, a literature survey is undertaken to establish the number of sites observed in the past and the features that were noted on them. This includes a study of local histories, historical and archaeological journals, placenames and early maps of the area. Field and underwater inspection of the lochs on the islands included a detailed, measured survey of each of the artificial islets, including those not recorded in the early references.

The visible, structural features of the artificial islets of the central Inner Hebrides are then analysed and their recurrent characteristics examined. This exercise shows that progress in the study of artificial islets can be made by applying simple analytical techniques to a sizeable number of artificial islets confined to a specific geographic region. In this case the characteristics of the data examined provide evidence which runs counter to current, widely-held theories concerning the nature, form and utility of artificial islets. Therefore alternative conclusions are proffered.
Another aim of the thesis is to analyze the location and spatial positioning of these artificial islet sites. Techniques are developed to propose how site positioning was employed by the early inhabitants in relation to potential farming and maritime resources.

The final part of this study compares these artificial islets with other crannog/artificial islet sites elsewhere in Scotland. Particular effort is made to see whether there is any discernible difference between Inner Hebridean sites and those on the mainland and in the Outer Hebrides respectively, but conclusions are limited because of the restricted data available.