Following on from a previous phase of evaluation, conducted in December 2008, a watching brief took place during the removal of topsoil from a parcel of land at Donich Park, Lochgoilhead. Work was originally requested on this site because it fell within an area known as Tom na Croiche, or Gallows Knowe. The place-name suggested the former presence of an execution site, potentially of Medieval date, which would in turn raise the possibility of burials being present. However, the initial evaluation identified a single pit, rich in charcoal, from which three flakes of pitchstone and a small fragment of pottery was recorded, together with a discontinuous layer of charcoal that was present over much of the site. Given the apparent evidence for prehistoric activity, a further phase of work was requested by the Loch Lomond and Trossachs Park Authority, on the advice of WoSAS. This was undertaken by Dr Clare Ellis of Argyll Archaeology in September and October of this year, and a report outlining the results has now been received.
Monitoring of topsoil removal revealed a further seven pits. These were fully excavated, with some found to contain flakes of pitchstone and while others produced sherds of prehistoric pottery. One probable cobble cist, perhaps dating to the Bronze Age, was also excavated, while a spread of charcoal, interpreted as an in situ campfire, was also found. Numerous microliths and flakes of flint were recovered from the area surrounding this campfire.
The possible cobble cist found at Dornich Park is remarkably similar to cobble-lined pits recently excavated at the Marine Science Park at Dunstaffnage, and reported here on the 1st of June. It took the form of a large pit measuring 1m x 1.3m x 0.56m deep, within which occurred a smaller deep pit lined with cobbles. It is possible that this feature dates from the Bronze Age. The probable cist was found underlying a deposit thought to be later in date, possibly medieval, which comprised dumped and spread material including domestic and/or industrial waste. The recovery of a nice flint blade from this deposit indicated that material below may have been dug out or disturbed prior to this dumping.
The seven oval pits, although of differing in size, may represent a distinct phase of pit deposition on site; these pits did not appear to be the remnants of truncated cobble cists, but rather a distinct form in their own right. Dark green pitchstone was recovered from three of the pits (one recorded during the evaluation), and probable prehistoric pottery was recovered from two. It is likely that these pits date from the Late Neolithic or Bronze Age.
The discrete spread of charcoal present on the site was interpreted as the remnants of an in situ campfire that had been protected from the plough by a particularly hard patch of gravel on its south side and by virtue of being located in a barely discernable hollow, possibly a tree throw. Knapping of flint and the making of microliths took place next to the fire on its east side, with much material being dropped here, while the odd flake clearly flew into the fire and out beyond the immediate area of knapping. It appears that the fire was constructed and burnt upon a natural fluvio-glacial gravel bar. A thin silt with grit and an organic rich silt had started to form between the cobbles and it was into this material into that much of the flint flakes and debitage appear to have been trod and lost.