8.3.9 Secular buildings

As already mentioned, virtually no secular buildings apart from hilltop duns are known from the area. A few ephemeral turf shelters were identified in the metalworking area of Dunadd (CANMORE ID 39564) (Lane and Campbell 2000, illus 2.38), but the dates of other stone-built structures on the site are unknown. Possible buildings of the period are the longhouses excavated at Little Dunagoil, Bute by Marshall (1964). A 9/10th-century lead weight of Norse type was found associated with one of these houses, but the stratigraphy is confused, and there are also early medieval beads, glass metalwork and pottery from the same area. More recently, at Dunstaffnage a small enigmatic sub-rectangular post-built structure with associated grain-drying kiln, hearths and pits has been dated to the 8/9th centuries (Ellis pers comm). Traces of stone and timber buildings within the monasteries of Iona (CANMORE ID 21649), Inchmarnock (CANMORE ID 40268) and St Blane’s (CANMORE ID 40292) have also been found, including an unusual very large circular post-built structure on Iona, but we really have very little idea what secular buildings looked like.

Possible cellular structures, usually thin walled and revetted into earlier material are currently associated with secondary occupation of other sites, again this may be due to a bias in the excavation and survey record. Ten such sites include the possible re-use of the cell at Kildalloig or the structures discovered within Dun Mac Sniachan and possibly Dhun Ghirgeadail and An Caisteal (CANMORE ID 21757). A revetted cellular settlement was recovered from the machair sand at Machrins, Colonsay (Ritchie 1981). Early excavations may not have recognised these sometimes flimsy structures as at Dùn Mhic Choigil (CANMORE ID 38479) (Hedges and Hedges 1976, 376), and it is likely that modern excavation may recover more. These structures inserted in Iron Age monuments may belong to the early medieval period or later, though only the Machrins (CANMORE ID 37923) structures are dated. The Machrins cellular buildings look typically mid-first millennium, but have produced an 8/10th-century Norse period date (Ritchie 1981, 267), though this may represent re-occupation.