A spectacular find marks a moment of history at Dunyvaig

Related Articles

Archaeologists excavating Dunyvaig Castle, Isle of Islay, Argyll, Scotland have brought back to life a key moment in the castle’s turbulent history by finding the seal of Sir John Campbell of Cawdor (c. 1576-1642), who had taken ownership of Islay in 1615.

The seal had lain on a clay floor within the castle for more than 400 years, buried below mounds of rubble from the collapsed defensive wall.

Once used to sign and seal charters and legal documents, it is a circular disc of lead, carrying the inscription IOANNIS CAMPBELL DE CALDER [Calder was the original spelling of Cawdor]. The seal carries the Cawdor coat of arms with a galley-ship and a stag. On its reverse, is the date of 1593 and the initials DM.

 

The Campbells and MacDonalds fought over Dunyvaig in the early 17th century, with a series of sieges and bombardments of the castle until the Campbells finally prevailed.

Dunyvaig Castle – Credit : University of Reading

Dr Darko Maričević, Director of the Excavation, said: “This is a remarkable find. Not only is it a beautiful and well-preserved object, but it comes from the floor of a building that we can now confidently date to the Campbell occupation. So buried below this floor, we will have the story of the MacDonald’s – the Lords of the Isles – to reveal.”

Roddy Regan, of Kilmartin Museum, said: “Seals are extremely rare finds. This discovery conjures up an image of a Campbell garrison fleeing from the castle when under attack, dropping and losing one of their most precious items, or maybe the seal had once been hidden within a wall niche and long forgotten.

“Perhaps the raid was in 1646, when Alasdair MacColla, a descendant of the MacDonalds, retook the castle and installed his elderly father, Colla Ciotach to defend it. The castle was immediately besieged again. We may have Colla Ciotach’s hasty defences in the form of turf walls built above the already ruined stone walls of Dunyvaig, before he was forced to surrender in 1647 and then hanged from the castle walls.”

Undertaken by Islay Heritage, a Scottish Charity, and the University of Reading, the 2018 Dunyvaig excavation ends this week, on 31 August. It will resume in 2019 to continue unveiling the history of Dunyvaig.Zoë

Wiacek, the University of Reading undergraduate who found the seal, said: “I removed a piece of rubble and it was just sitting there on the ground. I immediately knew it was an important find, but had no idea what it was. I called over my trench supervisor, and when it was lifted, the soil fell away to show the inscription. Then everyone became excited. I am so proud to have found something so important for the project and for Islay.”

Professor Steven Mithen, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading, Chairperson of Islay Heritage and Director of the Dunyvaig Project, said: “Coming towards the end of the dig, after the team had worked so hard to move huge amounts of turf and rubble, this has been a thrilling discovery. We have found a piece of Islay’s past and Scottish history. We can’t wait to start digging again in 2019.”

University of Reading

Header Image – The seal of Sir John Campbell of Cawdor – University of Reading

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

10 British Iron Age Hill Forts

A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage.

Stabiae – The Roman Resort Buried by Mount Vesuvius

Stabiae was an ancient Roman town and seaside resort near Pompeii, that was largely buried during the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius in present-day Italy.

Astronomers Accurately Measure the Temperature of Red Supergiant Stars

Red supergiants are a class of star that end their lives in supernova explosions. Their lifecycles are not fully understood, partly due to difficulties in measuring their temperatures. For the first time, astronomers develop an accurate method to determine the surface temperatures of red supergiants.

Researchers Overturn Hypothesis That Ancient Mammal Ancestors Moved Like Modern Lizards

The backbone is the Swiss Army Knife of mammal locomotion. It can function in all sorts of ways that allows living mammals to have remarkable diversity in their movements.

Archaeologists Discover one of Poland’s Largest Megalithic Tomb Complexes

Archaeologists excavating in Poland have discovered a large megalithic complex, containing several dozen tombs dating from 5500 years ago.

New Technology Allows Scientists First Glimpse of Intricate Details of Little Foot’s Life

In June 2019, an international team brought the complete skull of the 3.67-million-year-old Little Foot Australopithecus skeleton, from South Africa to the UK and achieved unprecedented imaging resolution of its bony structures and dentition in an X-ray synchrotron-based investigation at the UK's national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source.

Neandertals Had Capacity to Perceive and Produce Human Speech

Neandertals -- the closest ancestor to modern humans -- possessed the ability to perceive and produce human speech, according to a new study published by an international multidisciplinary team of researchers including Binghamton University anthropology professor Rolf Quam and graduate student Alex Velez.

Almost 600 Cats and Dogs Excavated in Ancient Pet Cemetery

Excavations of the early Roman port of Berenice in Egypt have unearthed the remains of nearly 600 cats and dogs from an ancient pet cemetery thought to be the earliest known yet discovered dating from 2000 years ago.

Popular stories

Ani – The Abandoned Medieval City

Ani is a ruined medieval city, and the former capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom, located in the Eastern Anatolia region of the Kars province in present-day Turkey.

Interactive Map of Earth’s Asteroid and Meteor Impact Craters

Across the history of our planet, around 190 terrestrial impact craters have been identified that still survive the Earth’s geological processes, with the most recent event occurring in 1947 at the Sikhote-Alin Mountains of south-eastern Russia.

The Sunken Town of Pavlopetri

Pavlopetri, also called Paulopetri, is a submerged ancient town, located between the islet of Pavlopetri and the Pounta coast of Laconia, on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece.

Exploring the Avebury Stone Circle Landscape

The area was designated part of the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites by UNESCO in 1986, in recognition for one of the most architecturally sophisticated stone circles in the world, in addition to the rich Neolithic, and Bronze age remains found nearby, such as the West Kennet Avenue, Beckhampton Avenue, West Kennet Long Barrow, the Sanctuary, and Windmill Hill.