9.5.6 Organic Material

Bone, Antler and Horn Carving

At Inverness, large quantities of horn cones from cattle, sheep and goats were found, as well as one sawn antler piece. This suggests these items were refuse from a horner’s workshop (Wordsworth 1982, 377). Further evidence is likely to exist, but needs to be gathered from publications relating to medieval sites. Despite the good preservation at Cromarty, no definite evidence for bone or antler working was found on site, although there was a rough out for a bone whistle (Steven Birch pers comm).

Cattle Hides and Meat Processing

Cattle were processed in Inverness, as indicated by the large quantities of dung that were represented in environmental samples. Cattle carcasses are likely to have fuelled an industry tanning hides, horn carving, and meat for export. In the late 14th century principal exports from Inverness were wool and hides, but in AD 1425–31 Inverness was exporting almost entirely hides (Perry 1998, 841). The fact that cattle from Cromarty were slaughtered when they were at least three years old suggests that they may have been kept primarily for hides (Vawdrey nd, 32).

Textile Production

Documentary sources note that the King granted Inverness a monopoly on the manufacture of dyed or shorn cloth, underlying the importance of the cloth industry in 12th century Scotland, including the Highlands. The sources show the importance of cloth, albeit decreasing as the medieval period went on. It has been suggested that a clay-lined pit on Church Street relates to the textile or leather industry (Perry 1998, 839–44). Archaeological evidence of this production is lean. Spindle whorls are widely found, and dated examples are found in Highland burghs, but these need not represent industrial scale spinning.

A grave slab at Kilmoray Knap Chapel, Argyll with an inscription to Henry Tulloch depicts cloth-worker’s cropping shears, suggesting that he may have been a master textile worker. Caldwell suggests that he have been one of the Tullochs from near Dingwall (Caldwell 2014, 233–4) employed by the Lords of the Isles.

Standing grave slab with engraved cropping shears
A grave slab from Kilmoray Knap Chapel depicting cloth-workers cropping shears. ©HES

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