9.5.4 Timber and Woodworking

The evidence of charcoal burning has been mentioned in 9.5.1. Timber was also needed for other purposes:

  • Making coffins (eg some are found at Portmahomack)
  • Making boats (eg the logboat found near Dingwall; MHG9089; Mowat et al 2015)
  • For building construction (eg at Inverness; MHG3673; Wordsworth 1983)
  • For timber keeps on mottes
  • For making dishes (eg the trough from Durness; MHG12958; Earwood 1993)

There are doubtless a much wider range of other objects where timber was used, for which we have no surviving information.

From Acharacle, Lochaber, five oak planks were found preserved in a peat bog, one showing tool marks. The radiocarbon dating gave a date of cal AD 1290–1410 (SUERC-26864; SUERC-26865), while the dendrochronology suggests they were felled in the early 14th century. The reason for their deposition is unclear. Perhaps they were cut and placed in the pool of water to prevent them drying out, or perhaps they were part of cargo due to be transported; a logboat was found in the area in the late 19th to 20th century but no longer survives. These items may indicate medieval forestry operations. On the shore of Loch Shiel a cache of unworked logs was also found, with one of the timbers also suggesting a similar date (MHG52987, MHG52988; Crone 2009).

In Scotland as a whole, there appears to have been extensive timber extraction in the medieval period with the result that by the end there were laws to regulate use; the archaeological records also suggest increasing imports (Mills and Crone 2012; Oram forthcoming b). It is unclear what the situation is in the Highlands, but remains to be investigated.

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