MHG5200 - Keg, Bog Butter - Kilmaluag


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

  • FINDSPOT (Undated)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

During the peat cutting season in 1931 there was found deep in a peat bog on the S of the main road, about 1 mile E of the inn at Kilmaluag, a wooden barrel or keg, 21" high, 43" narrowest, 45" widest circumference, carved from a solid piece of wood, the bottom and lid both also carved from the solid, containing the material known as Bog-butter. The Key is fully described and illustrated, and by comparison with similar kegs found apprently in association with a bronze cauldron at Kyleakin (NG72NE 2), dated to the early lst century AD. (A full analysis of the bog- butter and the impurites it contains is given; also a short description of its use and history etc.) Now in the Regional Museum, Aberdeen.
J Ritchie 1941.

Although the discovery of this Keg of bog butter is known in Kilmaluag, the exact site could not be ascertained.
Visited by OS (C F W) 25 April 1961.

Two-piece Betula keg, carved with two lug handles and two rim handles. Base and body sewn together; splitwood lid. Attributed to early-mid 1st millennium AD.
C Earwood 1993.

In 1931 a 'wooden barrel or keg full of...bog-butter' was found in a saturated condition in a peat-bog at Kilmaluag, to the S of the main road and about 1 mile (1.6 km) E of the village. It had apparently been set into bog pool and was in an attitude slightly tilted away from the vertical and about 6' (1.8m) below the level of the former upper surface of the peat. The bottom of the keg was found at the same location in the subsequent year. It was found in a saturated condition and has suffered from warping, splitting and pulverisation due to dessication after discovery; it was taken to the Regional Museum of the Town Council of Aberdeen, but cannot be identified among the collections of the City of Aberdeen, Art and Recreation Division, Art Gallery and Museum, which is the successor to that institution.
The vessel was conserved with glycerine and the exceptionally comprehensive study that was carried out included microscopic, scientific and technical analysis, and formed the basis for a seminal account of this class of artifact. It was assessed to have been lowered into a bog-pool which subsequently became covered-over; pollen analysis of the overlying deposits suggested a date 'Some time in the early historical or later prehistoric periods' but not earlier than late Sub-Boreal or early Sub-Atlantic times. The bog butter contained in the keg has been chemically analysed (with inconclusive results) but neither vessel nor contents has been the subject of radiocarbon dating. Horse, human and cattle hairs have been identified in the butter.
The keg was of birch and comprised body, lid and bottom sections, each of which had been worked from the solid with an adze and a smaller tool. The various holes had been made by burning and the workmanship was of a high standard; neither iron nails nor wooden pegs was used.
The barrel-shaped body measured 1'9" (0.5m) in height and between 3'7" (1.1m) and 3'9" (1.2m) in maximum diameter; the sides were rarely more than ?" (13mm) thick and the capacity was thus about 475 litres. Projecting above the upper rim of the body, and on opposite sides, there were two lugs, each measuring 2?" (70mm) in height and pierced by two holes, the upper being the larger. A second pair of lugs projected from points a little above the mid-point of the keg and were placed about 1'3" (0.4m) apart on the one side; each was perforated by a 'relatively small' oval hole. Ritchie suggests that the upper lugs were used to lower the keg into place (using ropes passed through the upper holes) while the lower holes were intended to hold a stick to retain the lid; the lower lugs were possibly used to secure the keg as a load on a human porter or pack-animal. The keg had apparently been used on more than one occasion as a major longitudinal drying-split had been repaired with thongs lashed through holes, and a small piece of wood had been so placed as to cover a hole gnawed by mice through the wall.
The circular lid was dressed in a spiral with an adze-like tool, and was slightly convex on the outside but concave within; it was large enough to project slightly beyond the sides of the body, and was retained in place by indentations around the vertical lugs. On the exterior, there was a probable identification mark.
The bottom was formed as a circular base with a bevelled flange, within which the lower edge of the body was fitted; the bottom itself was retained by thongs of leather or hide sewn or laced through corresponding holes in the flange and in the body. Two series of holes around the bottom margin had probably resulted from the replacement of an earlier bottom.
J Ritchie 1941; C Earwood 1992; C Earwood 1993; R J C Mowat 1996; information from Ms. J Stones.

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred NG 4300 7400 (4m by 4m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NG47SW
Geographical Area SKYE AND LOCHALSH
Civil Parish KILMUIR

Finds (2)

  • KEG (Undated)
  • BOG BUTTER (Undated)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (1)

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