What do we know about the dig site?


Authors: Rachel and Chris

In case you haven’t heard we will be putting trowels to soil on July 2nd to start our excavation of what we hope to be a prehistoric burial mound at Cronk Guckley, just outside Kirk Michael.

Imag 1a
Two of the mounds at Cronk Guckley. Image: Rachel


So what do we know about Cronk Guckley – two of the three mounds at Cronk Guckley are shown on the 1860s map of the Isle of Man. P.M.C. Kermode noted in his 1930s catalogue of Manx sites that there were once three mounds on the hill but one of them had disappeared. There are some reports that urns might have been excavated from the site but these are later refuted in the records at the Manx Museum as being falsely associated with the site when really they came from somewhere else nearby.

Image 1
1860s map of the site showing two mounds (we don’t know why the surveyors did not spot the third mounds)


The mounds also appear in Dr Jenny Woodcock’s PhD on the Manx Bronze Age. Woodcock visited the site and offers the best description of the mounds:

“There are three low, but distinct mounds on the top of the west-east trending ridge with magnificent views of the sea and north up the coast. The most westerly mound was between 14 to 15m in diameter and 0.5m high. The middle mounds was around 1m high and 14m in diameter west to east, but 18m in diameter north to south due to some downhill spread. The most easterly of the group measured around 1m high, 14m in diameter west to east and between 15 and 16m north to south.”

Rachel had read about these mounds in Jenny’s thesis but never visited them. Last summer when we were beginning the project and looking for candidate sites for geophysical surveys we (Chris and Rachel) went for a drive along the coast road between Peel and Kirk Michael and were easily able to spot the three mounds on top of a slight ridge from the road. In September last year, Michelle and Rachel went to visit the landowners and discuss with them whether they might grant their permission for us to carry out a geophysical survey at the site. Luckily for us the landowners like archaeology, and one of them is even a Newcastle University alumnus (!) so they were happy to let us take our equipment on site.

Image 2
LiDAR image showing the site – the mound on the far left (mound C) is the clearest and most round – whereas the mounds to the right (A and B) are more oval – we think this is the result of erosion.


We carried out a magnetometry survey as well as a ground penetrating radar survey and a 3D scan of the site. The mounds have been eroded and ploughed (we can see evidence of this in the LiDAR data) over the years, so they are smaller than they would have been. On the ground, and in the LIDAR data three mounds are clearly visible – we don’t understand why the records from the 1800s and 1930s suggest only two mounds remains.

Image 3
Magnetometry results from the site – you can see the high level of disturbance in the left of the image over the area covered by Mound C. Image: Kate Chapman, NAA.


Of the three mounds the one we call mound C is the easiest to identify. Mound C is round whereas mounds A and B are more oval, we think this is a result of hillwash erosion processes washing material downslope. Our magnetometry survey produced the best results and showed that mound C is likely to consist of re-deposited soil – as we would expect for a prehistoric round mound. The geophysics shows a strong response for this mound which indicates to us that the ground has been disturbed. This disturbance could date to when the mound was originally built, or it could indicate that an antiquarian dug into the mound (if this is true then we do not have any records for it). The results for the other two mounds are less clear – this doesn’t mean they are not mounds just that they might have been built differently, perhaps more quickly than mound C.

One of the things that makes archaeology so interesting is that we can do all kinds of geophysical surveys, we can look at old maps, aerial photographs and read everything written about a site – but – until we actually excavate it we still do not really know what it is! We think, and hope, that the site is a prehistoric burial site: all the evidence supports this. We reckon it probably dates to the Early Bronze Age on the basis of its size, form and location – but we won’t know until we start digging. We hope to be able to identify buried features within the mounds and to learn how the mounds were built and using what types of materials. If luck is with us we might even find the remains of those buried at the site.

Would you like to come and see the excavations?

We will be running site tours of the excavation at 3.30pm on Monday 3rd July; Tuesday 4th July; Thursday 6th; Friday 7th; Saturday 8th; Sunday 9th; Wednesday 12th; Thursday 13th; Friday 14th July. The site is up a hill so you will need to be able to make a short, but steep walk up hill to get to the dig. Booking a site tour is essential as the number of places on the tours are strictly limited and you will not be allowed on site without a booking: to find out more and book a slot please email digiom2017@gmail.com

Keep Reading!

If you can’t make it to the site then keep reading! We will be blogging about the dig over the coming weeks. We are planning lots of blogs from different members of the team that will give you details of the dig, how it progressed and what we found. Our aim is to give you a sense of the process behind carrying out an archaeological dig as well as what we found.


3 thoughts on “What do we know about the dig site?

  1. Also mentioned in Jenny Woodcock’s PhD which was submitted in 2001 and thus pre-dates Rachel’s work !! Copy available in MNH. Library


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