Neolithic cup from the Outer Hebrides

Chris Murray houdt de Neolithische beker vast die werd ontdekt in een Schots loch © Chris Murray

Chris Murray is a former Royal Navy diver who continues to dive for sport in Scottish lochs. Over the last few years he has discovered a number of prehistoric bowls under the water, particularly in lochs around the Outer Hebrides. In June 2020 he discovered this 5,500-year-old Neolithic cup lying in the mud at the bottom of a loch on the Isle of Lewis.

Mr Murray has previously found similar bowls in the water around ancient artificial stone-built islands in the lochs, which are known as “crannogs”. These man-made islands were previously thought to have been inhabited from the Iron Age, but these recent findings indicate that at least four crannogs in the Outer Hebrides were lived in some two thousand years earlier.

Archaeologists are said to be “very excited” over the find, which dates to between c. 3600 BC and  c. 3300 BC. This was around the time that the Dutch hunebeds were built and 1,000 years before Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.

Reconstructed crannog at the Scottish Crannog Centre in Loch Tay, Perthshire


Crannogs are found in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, as well as other parts of Europe. Prehistoric crannogs were originally timber-built roundhouses supported on piles on stilts driven into the loch bed. In more barren environments, tons of rock were piled onto the loch bed to make an island on which to build a stone house. Most seem to have been built as individual homes to accommodate extended families.

People continued to build, rebuild, modify and re-use crannogs in Scotland right up until the 17th century. Today the crannogs appear as tree-covered islands or remain hidden as submerged stony mounds. Several hundred have been discovered in Scotland although only a few have been investigated thoroughly.

The Scottish Crannog Centre, on the shores of Loch Tay near Aberfeldy in Perthshire, is an open air museum and home to a reconstruction of a crannog built between 1994 and 1997. The museum displays some of the artefacts found locally as well as graphic panels and videos painting a picture of the Iron Age crannog-dwellers. The Centre is a member of Exarc, a network of archaeological open-air museums of which the Hunebed Centre is also a member.

The Scottish Crannog Centre is a museum and also organises activities such as canoeing

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Text     Alun Harvey


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