6.6.6 Timber and Woodworking

Remarkably, the Dundurn excavations recovered a number of radially-split oak planks from the waterlogged deposits which had built up behind the citadel’s defences (Alcock et al 1989). Two of these were submitted to Queens University Belfast for tree-ring analysis (Crone 1998). They have good ring counts but remain undated, probably because of insufficient sample replication and because they are from local sources which are too distant to date against early medieval oak chronologies in Ireland and south-west Scotland (Crone 1998). So far the only early medieval and prehistoric archaeological dendro-dates in Scotland are from oak timbers from south-west Scotland, close enough to Ireland to date with their more continuous oak tree-ring records. The successful application of tree-ring dating in Perth and Kinross will depend upon the development of long regional native tree-ring chronologies here (Mills 2021).

It can be safely assumed that crannogs around Perth and Kinross would substantially illuminate our understanding of early medieval dendrochronologies, woodworking and woodland economy in the region. No early medieval crannog has been deliberately targeted by a substantial programme of excavation. The potential of submerged crannog sites in the region for allowing timber analysis is well established, specifically at Oakbank, Loch Tay (MPK484; Sands 1997; Dixon 2004).

Boat Building

The Errol 2 logboat (MPK4700; Dundee Museum and Art Gallery accession number DMAG 69-255) is one of two surviving examples from a concentration recorded from the Tay estuary (Mowat 1996, 28–30; Strachan 2010). Recovered in 1895 from the Habbiebank sandbank, the 9m oak vessel appears to have been on display in Dundee ever since (Donald pers comm). Early reports suggested an animal head prow, and possibly a figurehead, and the boat has since yielded radiocarbon dates of AD 548 and 599 (Strachan 2010, 129–30).

Errol 2 log boat ©️ HES

While logboats, along with skin and hide vessels, were well-suited to rivers and estuaries, the evolution of plank-built, sail-carrying ships over the early medieval enabled increased seaborne travel (Crumlin-Pedersen 2010). The Tay estuary, providing river access several kilometres inland, would have provided excellent opportunities for transport and trade.