Who knows what really happened in castles that are now centuries old? Apparently, the summer on 2018 has been a great way to learn about the history of a fascinating castle in Scotland! A student at England’s University of Reading, Zoë Wiacek, has spent her summer vacation on the island of Islay. There, she was on the site of an archaeological dig at the historic Dunyvaig Castle.
Little did she know that after turning over a piece of masonry, she would uncover more information on the history of the castle! Let’s check out her fantastic discovery.
20. DUNYVAIG CASTLE
Before we check out what Wiacek found, let’s learn some things about the castle and why the student’s discovery is so important for history. Looking at the castle, you only see a ruin, but this building was vital in Scotland’s clan feuds between the MacDonalds and the Campbells – a rivalry that lasted for centuries!
19. PREHISTORIC “ROOTS”
Dunyvaig Castle can be found on the southern part of Islay, which is off the west coast of Scotland. The monument might have been built in the 16th century, but it actually sits on top of older settlements that date back to prehistory!
If you’ve heard about Islay today, then you know how spectacular it is…
18. A DARK PAST
Today, Islay is known for the amazing scenery, salmon fishing, and whiskey distilleries. However, what makes this place mysterious and dark is the dispute between the MacDonald and Campbell clans.
The MacDonalds’ ancestors went back to the 12th-century warrior called Somerled, who was of Norse and Celtic origins. Somerled’s descendants owned the western Highlands and Islands of Scotland for four centuries!
17. LORD OF THE ISLES
The MacDonalds were known as the “Lords of the Isles,” and one of their many strongholds was Dunyvaig.
The Campbell clan’s first record is from 1263, but they’re thought to be descendants of the ancient Britons that lived in Scotland. The feud between the Campbells and the MacDonalds started at the end of 13th century…
16. GENERATIONS OF BLOODSHED
The first incident between the two clans started when relatives of the MacDonalds – MacDougalls, met a Campbell contingent during the Battle of Red Ford. The first murder between the clans then started bloodshed that would last for generations. One of the reasons for the conflict was Scottish politics.
As for the Dunyvaig Castle…
15. THE CAMPBELLS WERE RISING
The dominance of the MacDonalds was fading, with the Campbells rising in power. The Dunyvaig Castle was in the MacDonalds’ possession until 1493, but that year they lost a lot of land and property – it was the Scottish crown’s doing. The Lords of the Isles also lost Dunyvaig, who was then owned by the MacIans of Ardnamurchan.
14. A STRATEGIC LOCATION
The castle was a strategic location, guarding the entrance to Lagavulin Bay, which was where ships would get a safe anchorage. Then, in 1519, the MacDonalds got back the castle. In 1543, the Campbells fought and controlled the fortification so that two years later the MacDonalds managed to take it back.
Here’s the gory part of the story…
13. SIEGES AND FIGHTS
Believe it or not, but the MacDonalds and the Campbells kept on fighting to conquer the castle until the 17th century! First, the Campbells sieged the castle and took it, and then the MacDonalds would regain the stronghold. The feud finally ending over a hundred years later, in 1647!
Who got the castle after all?
12. THE MACDONALDS OR THE CAMPBELLS?
In 1647 the Campbells sieged the castle and Coll Ciotach Mac Domhnaill, a kinsman of the MacDonald clan, defended the castle but he was overwhelmed, in the end being hanged by the Campbells who then became the owners of the castle. You won’t believe what happened three decades later!
11. THE CAMPBELLS OF CAWDOR
The Campbells of Cawdor finally had this strategic castle in their hands. But believe it or not, in 1677, Sir Hugh Campbell grew tired of the castle Dunyvaig and thought he didn’t need it anymore. What did he do with his property? Prepare to be amazed!
10. A NEW HOME
Hugh Campbell took down the fortification and went to live in the Islay House which is today a luxury hotel! And now in 2018, the group of 40 people came to visit the ruins of Dunyvaig Castle. They would be part of a three-week excavation – they did not expect this…
9. ARCHAEOLOGY AND ISLAY HERITAGE
Thanks to the Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading and the Islay Heritage, the team was able to start working on the site of Dunyvaig Castle. Wiacek was part of the team when excavations and the survey began.
8. A PIECE OF RUBBLE
Wiacek had no idea that she would be the one to make such an incredible discovery. She explained in a press release from the University of Reading how she came across her find:
“I removed a piece of rubble, and it was just sitting there on the ground.” What did she see?
7. COME SEE THIS!
“I immediately knew it was an important find, but had no idea what it was,” she added. So she explained in the press release how she called her trench supervisor who had the object lifted. Then, the soil came off, revealing this!
6. AN EXCITING DISCOVERY
Wiacek said that as soon as the object was lifted, “the soil fell away to show the inscription. Then everyone became excited.” She couldn’t believe she was the one that found an essential artifact for their project and for Islay… What was the item?
5. FOUR-CENTURIES-OLD SEAL
You are looking at a seal older than 400 years! The item appears to have belonged to Sir John Campbell of Cawdor, who lived from around 1576 to 1642 and got the castle in 1615. The seal that is inscribed with the date 1593 was more likely used to sign and seal legal papers and documents!
4. A REMARKABLE FIND!
The seal Wiacek has uncovered this summer was just under a pile of stones that were left crumbled after an old defensive wall collapsed. Dr. Darko Maričević, the leader of the dig, said that the discovery is remarkable, adding the following statement…
3. DATING THE CAMPBELL OCCUPATION
“Not only is it a beautiful and well-preserved object, but it [also]comes from the floor of a building that we can now confidently date to the Campbell occupation.” He explained that below the ground they stood on there should also be the “the story of the MacDonalds – the Lords of the Isles” to be revealed.
2. A THRILLING DISCOVERY
Professor Steven Mithen (University of Reading) stated that after the team worked so hard to remove the “amounts of turf and rubble,” finding the seal was a thrilling discovery that would surely help them uncover more about the Campbells and the MacDonalds!
1. THE DIGGING STARTS AGAIN IN 2019!
“We have found a piece of Islay’s past and Scottish history,” added Mithen. He also concluded that they’re not finished yet: “We can’t wait to start digging again in 2019.”
And we cannot wait to see what the find next year!