Hot Off the Press: A New Jerusalem ‘At the Ends of the Earth’

Dr. Ewan Campbell and Dr. Adrián Maldonado have published a new open-access journal article on Iona titled ‘A New Jerusalem ‘At the Ends of the Earth’: Interpreting Charles Thomas’s Excavations at Iona Abbey 1956–63.’ It combines information gathered from Thomas’s impressive campaign of excavations on the island from 1956 to 1963 and information recovered by Campbell and Maldonado’s recent campaign of excavations and fieldwork from 2016 – 2018. Of particular interest is the new insight into the layout and function of the monastic complex, leading the authors to draw parallels to Jerusalem as imagined by Adomnán in his De Locis Sanctis as well as comparisons of the monastic layout on Iona with other known early medieval monasteries across northern Britain and Ireland.

This article follows on from that published last year (Furnishing an Early Medieval Monastery: New Evidence from Iona) and is entirely open-access!

 

Campbell, E., & Maldonado, A. (2020). A NEW JERUSALEM ‘AT THE ENDS OF THE EARTH’: INTERPRETING CHARLES THOMAS’S EXCAVATIONS AT IONA ABBEY 1956–63. The Antiquaries Journal, 1-53. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquaries-journal/article/new-jerusalem-at-the-ends-of-the-earth-interpreting-charles-thomass-excavations-at-iona-abbey-195663/36F808DDF43B6311D307417A3B8D2434

New Publication: Furnishing an Early Medieval Monastery

The first of three papers on Iona has just been published! This one, published in Medieval Archaeology, discusses some of the important artefacts from Charles Thomas’s excavations and other unpublished material from the site. It includes discussion of a small bronze human head, and a 3D lion figurine, both possibly from shrine fittings.

Campbell, E, Batey, C, Murray, G & Thickpenny, C 2019 Furnishing an Early Medieval Monastery: New Evidence from Iona, Medieval Archaeology  63 (2), 298-337

Click here for the open access electronic version.

 

Day 16: Pins and People

As we’ve mentioned in the last few posts, this year we are only investigating modern deposits associated with the rebuilding of the Abbey. However, these works have disturbed earlier deposits, bringing some finds from earlier periods into these later layers. The most exciting of these finds is a small, beautifully modelled bronze pin. This dates to the 7th century, and is of a type known as a nail-headed pin.

The nail-headed pin found at Iona Abbey.

This type of pin was manufactured widely in early medieval Scotland at sites such as Dunadd, the royal inauguration site of the kings of Dál Riata. Most of these pins are fairly undistinguished, utilitarian items. The one we’ve found, however, is beautifully crafted with a hip shank, in which the shaft is slightly wider in the middle to help keep it securely fastened to hair or clothing. There is a very similar example from Buiston Crannog in Ayrshire, which dates to the 7th century AD, but ours on Iona is smaller.

We don’t know whether this pin was worn by a man, woman, or child. Christian burials from this period generally do not have any grave goods in them, so we do not know as much about typical styles of dress as in other areas of Britain.

From left to right: Adrián Maldonado, Judy Russell, Cecilia Russell, and Ewan Campbell.

We have met a large number of people over the last two weeks, but an especial treat on Saturday a visit by Judy and Cecilia Russell. The Russell family have been associated with Iona for over a century, and Judy and Cecilia’s grandfather gave generously to and was greatly supportive of the reconstruction of the Abbey in the early 20th century and particularly the renovations carried out by the Iona Community from 1938 onwards. Particularly relevant to our excavations, their father sponsored the series of excavations on Iona by both Charles Thomas and Richard Reece from the 1950s to 1980s, without which our own excavations would not have occurred. It was wonderful to hear Judy and Cecilia’s first-hand reminiscences of these groundbreaking excavations!

If you happen to be in the area, we are excavating until the end of this week. Feel free to stop by and say hello!