Student Dig Diaries

Now that the fieldschool season has ended, the work of reporting and dissemination begins in earnest. Whilst we process our findings please read our 2015 dig diary, mostly written and illustrated by the wonderful fieldschool delegates.


Day Three of Fieldwork

Our third day of fieldwork shifted to the Shieldaig peninsula which separates Upper Loch Torridon with Loch Sheildaig in the centre of the valley. The peninsula is rich in early prehistoric lithic scatters, and today we were focusing our efforts at a raised beach which has previously produced artefacts. We recorded a series of testpits and a topographic survey of the stepped, raised beach.

The weather was intermittently stormy and sunny, but the heavy rain prevailed. On completing the survey we visited the sites we previously examined on Lub Dubh-aird, a smaller peninsula to the east which has produced thousands of very small lithic artefacts in recent years.

Lub Dubh-aird at high tide

After recovering a few more quartz and flint artefacts from the beach we were rewarded on our very wet day with a beautiful rainbow, just as the sun came out.

A bright end to the day

Day Two of Fieldwork


Today we investigated a series of well defined river terraces on the south side of Upper Loch Torridon at Balgy. Above the current floodplain of the river, which drains Loch Damph, there are two terraces recording the past history of the river and its course has meandered across this tributary valley. The date of these terraces is poorly defined but they’re likely to have been present in the landscape during the early Holocene and are therefore of archaeological interest for possible lithic material.

To test this we excavated a series of testpits across the second terrace which produced some finds including possibly worked stone as well as the ubiquitous blue and white china!

We also took the opportunity to produce a detailed topographic survey of the river terraces to begin to build our understanding of how the valley has developed over the last 10,000 or so.

Day One of Fieldwork

The first day of fieldwork focused on providing the big-picture context of the landscape and well-preserved geomorphology around Upper Loch Torridon. Mixing a tour of salt marshes, river terraces and raised beaches with a heavy dose of the area’s glacial history and complex changes in sea-level we’re all set for populating this magnificent landscape with the early prehistoric archaeology that is preserved around the valley.

"The view from the north bank of Upper Loch Torridon, SW towards the Sheildaig peninsula as the weather rolls in."
"Upper Loch Torridon from Inveralligin, on the north bank."

We ended the day with a quick visit to the only Scheduled Monument in the valley, the open air preaching site at Am-ploc, on a spur of bedrock in the head of Upper Loch Torridon at Torridon village. Dating to at least the 19th century, the stone pews are a fascinating glimpse into the religious history of the region. More details of the site can be found on Canmore [] and Historic Scotland website [].

Am-ploc open air church, Upper Loch Torridon

Next we hunt for lithic artefacts!

3 days to go!

It’s only a few days until the fieldschool begins! You’ll be able to read about it here as the week goes on (internet permitting) but in the meantime why not read this blog by a colleague at Wessex of Dr Andrew Bicket? John McCarthy of the SAMPHIRE project has just written about intertidal wrecks at Fearnmore, very near to where the fieldschool will be taking place so you can start to get a feel for the landscape.