The Crannogs of Loch Awe – 1999

Dr. Mark Holley

This 1999 survey project won a British Sub-Aqua Club Jubilee Trust Award 
and a short survey report was given to BSAC Jubilee Trust

The web pages of the original 1972 Loch Awe Crannog Survey are still available written by Duncan McArdle and Ian A Morrison

Project Background
In 1972, Dr Ian Morrison, then a Geography Lecturer at The University of Edinburgh and a team of Naval Divers surveyed Loch Awe and there have only been two similar surveys of mainland Scottish lochs since. This new survey of Loch Awe intends to re-examine the 1972 survey data. In 1972 Loch Awe was surveyed using tapes and sounding rods, which although an effective method does not provide detail of features and may lead to inaccuracies from the effect of loch fetch or currents upon the tape.

Loch Awe

Personal communication with the previous survey team has indicated that this may have been the case. Advances in surveying equipment available to archaeology means that distance measurements can be taken electronically and thousands of points can be registered instead of the prior survey average of 12-17 per site. The data produced from the 1972 survey has been used as the foundation for studies into crannog remains and their relationship to the surrounding landscape. The 1999 project will provide detail that may challenge some of the established beliefs on size and “crannog type” developed from 1972 data and fundamentally change perceptions of the accepted theories on crannogs in general.
Project Programme and Working Area
The project took place over a two week time period. Crannogs are mainly sited in 0-5 metres of water on underwater land shelves which stretch out from the shore to deep water drop-offs. Bathymetrical charts will be used to determine the areas in the Loch where crannog building could take place. These areas, including those with sites already known, have been systematic surveyed with echo sounding equipment to check for sites yet awaiting discovery. All sites will then be fully recorded and surveyed, using current landscape-survey equipment. Weather conditions permitting, the expected rate of survey is two / three sites per day.

Aims of Project


  1. To survey all submerged settlement sites, known and as yet undiscovered in Loch Awe using remote sensing and long distance measurement equipment.
  2.  Assess the site’s condition and stability due to impact of increased leisure activities on the Loch.
  3. To retrieve any possible samples for radiocarbon dating. This will provide the first set of dates from multiple sites in the Loch and provide information of the spread of time periods the Loch was in use. This will extend greatly the current small corpus of securely dated sites for crannogs in general, which will benefit Scottish Archaeology as a whole.
  4. The historical use of these artificial islands will also be addressed as some exhibit use as castle strongholds during the Medieval and later periods. For the first time detailed underwater features related to these structures will be recorded and analysed.
  5. A series of underwater photographs of the sites will be taken. This will provide the first ever underwater image record for Loch Awe.
  6. To publish survey and dating results in an appropriate academic journals and popular/ specialised press. i.e. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and Diver Magazine.
  7. The deposition of documentary / photographic archive with the correct government bodies after project completion. e.g. Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments for Scotland.

For more details email Dr. Mark Holley 

© 2016