In March of this year, Dr Clare Ellis of Argyll Archaeology Ltd undertook monitoring during the initial phase of topsoil removal on the site of a proposed new house at Kames, in Argyll. The work was undertaken as a condition of planning consent, attached by the Council on the advice of the West of Scotland Archaeology Service, due to the presence of a number of significant Bronze Age and Neolithic sites in the vicinity, including three standing stones and a number of cist burials, the closest of which had been found around 90m from the development site. A previous watching brief on land to the north of the plot had resulted in the excavation of a couple of post-holes and an area of burning (WoSAS Pin 62866), which produced a radiocarbon date in the Bronze Age from a sample taken from one of the post-holes.
The work completed in March of this year identified a curvilinear feature some 4.25m long and 1.9m wide. The southern portion of the feature comprised an area of in situ burning, demonstrated by the presence of a circular patch of scorched natural gravel, capped by a deposit rich in charcoal and fire-cracked pebbles. At the northern end of the pit, this deposit capped a layer of grey ash that overlay a set of deliberately-laid large flat cobbles and slabs. Some of these appeared to have fallen in from the sides, and were probably once part of the side walls of a flue; on the removal of these tumbled slabs, the central area was found to be paved with neatly fitted slabs of green schist.
This feature appeared to represent some form of oven or drying kiln. The fuel (the grey colour and presence of charcoal suggested that this was mainly wood) was burnt at the southern end directly upon the gravel. It appears that the embers were then raked onto the paved area where the stones were gently heated, as none appeared to have been cracked by rapid heating or rapid cooling. The heat from the embers would then have passed along the stone lined flue, aided by the wind. Ash also appears to have been then pulled further back into the area lined with stone and bounded by four postholes. It may be that bread was cooked directly upon the preheated stones; this method was utilised in the Roman bread ovens excavated in Kintore in Aberdeenshire, though the recovery of flint from the deposits appeared to imply a prehistoric date. However, recent fieldwork by Argyll Archaeology in Kintyre demonstrated that flint was utilised in a domestic hearth setting well into the medieval period, and this form of kiln, reminiscent of corn drying kilns, appeared much more typical of the medieval period than the prehistoric. However, samples taken from charcoal among the ashy deposits were sent for radiocarbon dating, and have returned a date in the range 1446-1367BC, placing the feature within the Early-Mid Bronze Age.