EHG2992 - Excavation - Chapel Hill, Ballachly, Dunbeath



University of Nottingham


June-July 2008


Excavations were carried out by The University of Nottingham at the supposed early Christian monastic site at Ballachly, near Dunbeath in 2008, as the second season of work. Work was concentrated on consolidating the features excavated in 2007 (see EHG2975 for the first season) and opening up a series of new trenches in the Scheduled area. This was largely to determine the nature of several geophysical anomalies identifed from an earlier resistivity survey by GUARD (see EHG2926) and to investigate the origins of one of the large radial walls present on the site. In addition a gradiometer survey was carried out in the Scheduled area (see EHG) but no significant anomalies were identifed. A limited GPR survey was also carried out by ORCA, over a transect across the proposed Trench VI, in order to evaluate if the technique would be useful in future work (see EHG2993). Trench 2 from 2007 was enlarged in order to gain a better understanding of features found there previously. Trench 3 was extended towards Chapel Hill and Wall A in order to examine the extent of the cobbles found in 2007, as well as to continue the investigation into a linear feature indicated by resistivity. Trench 4 was originally situated to examine the origins and purpose of one of the large extant walls (Wall A) which radiate from Chapel Hill. The trench was placed across a perceived blocked portion of the wall to determine if there was any path or roadway leading up to the ‘gap’. An offshoot from the main trench was excavated to examine the base of Wall A. Trench 6 was located across a low resistance linear anomaly, which was later reinforced by the GPR survey results suggesting a deep ditch-like feature. Excavations revealed a considerable depth of ploughsoil, beneath which was a mixed midden-like deposit within a widespread layer that also contained evidence for extensive burning. This included late Norse pottery as well as large quantities of slag and possible iron ore or haematite. Trench 7 was located across what the GUARD resistivity survey had suggested was a structure. The trench was dug to natural without any archaeological features being discovered. Trench 9 was located across one of several low mounds. Excavations were incomplete but exposed stones were interpreted as being either a robbed-out Bronze Age cairn, or a stone dump. <1> The four seasons of excavation at the site between 2007-2010 by the University of Nottingham have susequently been published as a PSAS article in 2013. See link below for article. <2>

Sources/Archives (2)



Location Chapel Hill, Ballachly, Dunbeath
Grid reference Centred ND 1568 3034 (71m by 163m) (7 map features)
Map sheet ND13SE
Civil Parish LATHERON
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

  • Monastery, Ballachly (Monument)

External Links (1)

Record last edited

Oct 28 2020 3:39PM

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