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Cronk ny Merriu

Period: Early Medieval

NGR Easting: 231740

NGR Northing: 470480

Description: Defended promontory. When first surveyed by the Ordnance Survey in 1868, the most obvious features on the site were the large, grass-covered bank, standing 3.5m high and 5m wide, and the less substantial remains of a rectangular building behind it on the promontory. The scale of the bank led to an assumption that it represented a prehistoric burial mound, a belief compounded by its name, which translates as ‘hill of the dead’.

Excavation in 1950-51 found that the promontory had first been protected by a timber stockade, which was later replaced by a timber-reinforced earthen rampart. A ditch had also been excavated in front of the bank, to a depth of about 1m below modern ground-level; the ditch was spanned by a causeway at the west end to allow access to the headland. The rampart was further augmented by a timber platform, or raised walkway.

The defensive site so created was considered to be of Iron Age character, though no features of this period were identified within the site. Several residual finds, however, confirm an Iron Age presence.

The interior of the headland is now dominated by a later longhouse which is likely to have disturbed or destroyed most traces of earlier occupation. The longhouse measures 13.5m by 7.5m, with earthen walls 1.5m thick faced inside and out in stone. The walls originally stood to a height of around 1.5m, and probably supported a pitched roof. Two doorways are located opposite each other near the west end, and low stone benches run along both of the long walls and across the western gable. There was little evidence of domestic activity, only rather basic remains of a hearth, and no domestic rubbish. The form of the building thus conforms to a domestic Viking longhouse, while the excavated evidence suggests that it was not permanently occupied.

Several other defended promontories (Cass ny Hawin, Close ny Chollagh and Borrane) have similar buildings within their ramparts, leading to the suggestion that existing promontory forts were reused as part of a ‘watch and ward’ system of coastal defence and perhaps also to police beach markets.

No dating evidence was found during the excavations but in 1970, a half-penny of Edward I, dating 1280-81, was found in the back-fill of the dig and presumably indicates some occupation of the site after the end of Norse rule on the Island in 1265.

View map location on Archaeology Data Service

Site & Monument Type: longhouse

Category: National Monuments Record: Statutory Ancient Monuments

Site ID number: 1068.00

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