1902 Encyclopedia > Crannogs


CRANNOGS (Celtic, crann, a tree), the term applied in Scotland and Ireland to the stockaded islands so numer-ous in ancient times in the lochs of both countries. The existence of these lake-dwellings in Scotland was first made known by Mr John Mackinlay, a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, in a letter sent to George Chalmers, the author of Caledonia, in 1813, describing two crannogs, or fortified islands in Bute. The crannog of Lagore, the first discovered in Ireland, was examined and described by Sir William Wilda in 1840. But it was not until after the discovery of the pile-villages of the Swiss lakes, in 1853, had drawn public attention to the subject of lake-dwellings, that the crannogs of Scotland and Ireland were systematically investigated. The results of these in-vestigations show that they resemble the Swiss lake-dwell-ings in nothing, except that they are placed in lakes. The crannog is a type of stronghold peculiar to Celtic countries. No example is known in England, although over a hundred have been examined and described in Ireland, and perhaps about half that number in Scotland. As a rule they have been constructed on islets or shallows in the lochs, whicli have been adapted for occupation, and fortified by single or double lines of stockaded defences drawn round the margin. To enlarge the area, or raise the surface level where that was necessary, layers of logs, brushwood, heather, and ferns were piled on the shallow, and consoli-dated with gravel and stones. Over all there was laid a layer of earth, a floor of logs, or a pavement of flagstones. In rare instances the body of the work is entirely of stones, the stockaded defence and the huts within its inclosure being the only parts constructed of timber. Occasionally a bridge of logs, or a causeway of stones, formed a communication with the shore, but often the only means of getting to and from the island was by canoes. One or two of these hollowed out of a single tree are usually found in connection with a crannog. The stockade was commonly of piles of oak, but occasionally of pine, yew, or alder. Bemains of huts of logs, or of wattled work, are often found within the inclosure. Three crannogs in Dowalton Loch, Wigtonshire, examined by Lord Lovaine in 1863, were found to be constructed of layers of fern and birch and hazel branches, mixed with boulders and penetrated by oak piles, while above all there was a surface layer of stones and soil. The remains of the stockade round the margin were of vertical piles mortised into horizontal bars, and secured by pegs in the mortised holes. The crannog of Cloonfinlough in Connaught had a triple stockade of oak piles, connected by horizontal stretchers, and enclosing an area 130 feet in diameter, laid with trunks of oak treea. In the crannog of Lagore there were about 150 cartloads of bones, chiefly of oxen, deer, sheep, and swine, the refuse of the food of the occupants. The implements, utensils, and weapons found in the Scottish and Irish crannogs are usually of iron, or, if objects of bronze and stone are found, they are commonly such as were in use in the Iron age, differing in form and ornamentation from the relics of the Stone and Bronze ages. Stone celts are said in one or two instances to have occurred in Irish crannogs, but such in-stances are rare and exceptional, and no object of stone or bronze similar to those usually assigned to the Stone or Bronze age has been found in any crannog in Scotland. The objects usually found in the Irish crannogs are swords, spears, javelins, dagger-blades, knives, and axes of iron, mostly of the forms which are characteristic of the period of the Scandinavian invasions from the 9th to the 12th century. Besides these there are cauldrons, basins, and other utensils of thin hammered bronze; pins, brooches, and horse-trappings of cast-bronze; combs, pins, handles of implements, ornaments, and other objects of bone; pots, dishes, and bowls of coarse, unglazed, and hand-made pottery, often ornamented with zig-zag lines and rude im-pressed or incised patterns of crossed or parallel lines and triangular markings; quernstones, whetstones, pestle-stones, round stone balls, &c. Few objects have been found in the Scottish crannogs except at Dowalton, which yielded basins of thin bronze, sorely clouted, part of a large cauldron, beads of glass and amber, and bracelets of vitre-ous paste, iron slag, crucibles, large hammer-heads of iron, quernstones, whetstones, and a shoe of stamped leather. A saucepan of Roman make was found in the loch in the neighbourhood of the crannogs, but it is not certainly con-nected with any of them. Crannogs are frequently referred to in the Irish annals. Under the year 848 the Annals of the Four Masters record the burning of the island of Loch Gabhor (the crannog of Lagore), and the same stronghold is noticed as again destroyed by the Danes in 933. Under the year 1246 it is recorded that Turlough O'Connor made his escape from the crannog of Lough Leisi, and drowned his keepers. Many other entries occur in the succeeding centuries. In the register of the Privy Council of Scotland, April 14, 1608, it is ordered that "the hail! houssis of defence, strongholds, and crannokis in the Yllis (the western isles) pertaining to Angus M'Conneill of Dunnyvaig and Hector M'Cloyne of Dowart sal be delyverit to Plis Majestie." Judging from the historical evidence of their late continuance, and from the character of the relics found in them, the crannogs of Scotland and Ireland may be regarded as the very latest class of prehis-toric strongholds, reaching their greatest development in early historic times, and surviving through the Middle Ages. In Ireland Sir William Wilde has assigned their range approximately to the period between the 9 th and 16th centuries. See LAKE DWELLINGS.

Wilde's Descriptive Catalogue of the Antiquities in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, Article "Crannogs," pp. 220, 233; Wakeman on "the Crannogs of Fermanagh" m the Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, 4th series, vol. i. pp. 305-314, 360-370 and 553-534 ; "Notice of two Cranno«s in Bute," by John Mackinlay, in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. iii. pp. 43-46 ; "Scottish Artificial Islands or Crannogs," by John Stuart, Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, in their Proceedings, vol. vi. pp. 114-178 ; Catalogue of Antiquities in the National Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, p. 60. (J. AN.)

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