In 1870, Christian Maclagan discovered a remarkable 2,000 year old tower in Stirling, Scotland, but it was ignored, left unexcavated and its location eventually forgotten, all because she was a woman. Archaeologists have launched a crowdfunding campaign to find it.
Christian Maclagan was arguably Scotland’s first female archaeologist and should by rights be a household name. In 1870, she identified an Iron Age tower, otherwise known as a broch, in Stirling. These remarkable tower-like structures are not only the key iconic monument of Scotland’s Iron Age, but are one of the only known extant prehistoric buildings in northwest Europe to have multiple floors.
But such was contemporary sexism that Christian was denied full membership of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and her first key paper was only read once she got it transcribed by a man. Had things been different, her discovery would have gone down in history as the first such broch to be discovered in what is now an urban environment. Unfortunately, it was ignored, left unexcavated and its location eventually forgotten, simply because she was a woman.
Now, Stirling archaeologist Dr Murray Cook thinks he has found the site’s original location and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to run a four day excavation to see if they can confirm the site, and bring Christian Maclagan the recognition she deserves. Anyone can support the project, and crowdfunders will have the opportunity to join the excavation team, learn how to dig and help search ‘hands on’ for Stirling’s lost broch.
Having studied Maclagan’s archive, which is now stored in the British Museum, Cook identified two possible locations. Upon further investigation, he found that one of the possible sites was associated with an unfinished Late Iron Age rotary quern, and that a recent landslip had also revealed a large section of horizontal drystone masonry.
These tower-like stone structures are unique to Scotland and date from around 2,000 years ago. The most famous brochs are Mousa, Carloway, Dun Telve, Eden’s Hall and Clickimin, which are all substantial double-skinned buildings with multiple floors, staircases, cells and galleries.
Though they are found across Scotland, they are mainly found along Scotland’s Atlantic coast, and are widely assumed to be connected with strategic trading locations. The curious thing is that around Stirling, brochs appear to have been adopted slightly later than elsewhere in Scotland, and their arrival is perhaps associated the massive Roman market to the south.
Therese McCormick, the project’s co-director said:
‘Christian must have had tremendous guts and determination to overcome all the barriers that were placed in front of her just because she was a woman. So much of her work was overlooked, to the point where an entire monument was forgotten, and she complained bitterly about sexism throughout her life. Today, both she and the discovery she made deserve to finally be recognised. We want to carry out the first ever excavation of this site that has been ignored for so long, find out if she was right and get this trailblazing Scots archaeologist the attention she deserves.’
Adding to that, Dr Cook said:
‘Stirling is rich in archaeology and, because of its location on the lowest crossing point of the Forth, features in all of the key events from the last 2,000 years of Scottish history, from the Romans to the Jacobites, including two of the most important battles in Scottish history.
That it also has a broch, the iconic monument of Scotland’s Iron Age, and one which was also discovered by Scotland’s first female archaeologist is incredible. We can’t wait to get started’.
Anyone who wants to help find Stirling’s lost broch by supporting the campaign online or by joining the excavation team can do so here.
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