Having excavated three trenches on Iona in the 2017 season, you may be wondering why we’re going back. Last year, we recovered large amounts of organic material from Charles Thomas’s original 1956 trench through the western portion of the vallum, located just outside the MacLeod Centre. The organic material from the base of the ditch dates to 580 – 660 AD and is likely one of the earliest features of the monastery. We also uncovered a stone structure and numerous medieval-period finds from just south of the Abbey. The stone structure predates a layer rich in iron-working debris dating to 665 – 770 AD. This suggests that the stone structure could be as early as the 7th century and therefore the earliest dated stone-built feature on a Scottish monastery.
So why go back?
Well, while we found the stone structure in Trench 2 last year, we still don’t really know what it is. The portion we were able to uncover in 2017 consists of a relatively straight wall running roughly east-west, which then curves to the north before running into the edges of our trench. Our excavations last year couldn’t investigate the footprint of the wall further, because we did not have permission to excavate a wider area. This year, we are going back to trace the footprint (or outline) of the structure and follow it as far as we can within the limits of our trench to determine what it actually is (hopefully).
The Iona Research Group is excavating on Iona from 5 May – 2 June 2018. If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by and say hello!