Broadcast 25 April 2010
In May 2009 an archaeological evaluation was undertaken by Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ at the site of Baliscate (Coille Creag A’Chait), 1km south of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Argyll, Scotland (centred on NGR 149677 754068), in order to investigate a recently discovered early Celtic Christian chapel and possible associated cemetery within a square stone enclosure. The Site was discovered in March 2008, and following initial identification, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) carried out a survey of the remains in October 2008.
Time Team’s work was able to confirm that the Site was a chapel, which consisted of a timber phase with at least one associated burial. The burial produced a radiocarbon date of 610-690 cal. AD, placing it potentially within the lifetime of St. Adomnán, the ninth Abbot of Iona and biographer of St. Columba. The timber phase was replaced by a stone phase with an associated leacht, a stone structure at the eastern end of the chapel. Similar structures have been observed on Iona and at Celtic Christian sites in Ireland, and this would once have held an upstanding stone cross. A fragment of the stone cross was recovered from the demolition material overlying the leacht and is considered to date to the 8th century AD.
The chapel was located within a larger monastic complex containing at least one other building. The surrounding monastic vallum (a physical and spiritual barrier separating the ecclesiastical from the secular) was identified, as well as an approaching hollow-way, and an entrance through the vallum, although none of these features were excavated. The chapel lies in the middle of an enclosure measuring approximately 210m by 100m wide and covering an area of 1.37 hectares.
The possible associated cemetery was investigated and was shown to be a sheep enclosure or ‘fank’ with an associated shieling for the shepherd. The fank and shieling had been constructed from the demolished material derived from the chapel.
Evidence of possible prehistoric activity was also revealed on the Site, through the identification of possible ard marks, pottery and a kerbed cairn.