Daer Reservoir

Daer Reservoir full in 2009
Daer Reservoir full in 2009

The Daer Reservoir supplies water to the central belt of Scotland and it was inaugurated by Her Majesty The Queen in 1956. It has never been empty since that time but its water level routinely falls in the late summer and autumn by some 4 to 8 metres.

Reservoir water levels from 2000 to 2005
Reservoir water levels from 2000 to 2005

Initially, the Group’s interest within the reservoir focused on Kirkhope Tower. In 1995, when the water level was low, this drowned building was investigated and re-interpreted as a possible bastle house. At the same time the beaches of the reservoir were inspected and numerous pre-historic cairns and burnt mounds were found. Lithic fragments were also found as random scatters and in distinct concentrations. Some objects were recognisable as being of Mesolithic date.

Voluteers wet sieving in Daer
Voluteers wet sieving in Daer Reservoir

Several interim reports describing the archaeology of the reservoir are available at Biggar Museums and will soon be included on this website. It is evident that the locality was repeatedly visited in Mesolithic times by hunter gatherer groups. Three of the four principal Mesolithic sites were being actively eroded and excavation was therefore justified. Radiocarbon analyses of charcoal thereby recovered yielded dates of c.6168, 7757, 9030 and 10,080 years ago. We are indebted to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland for their contribution to the cost of these dates.

Daer reservoir at low water
Daer reservoir at low water

The fourth site showed no evidence of erosion. It is being monitored and so far has only produced a few surface lithics

A total of 36 lithic concentrations were recognised. At most of these, the most common material used in tool-making is the local Radiolarion Chert but excavation at one locality produced a range of lithic objects, including many microliths, made from a variety of lithologies. The most abundant fragments consisted of an unusual type of flint. Others were of chalcedony, what may be a hornfelsed siltstone and an, as yet, unprovenanced silicified limestone of which only one other flake has been found in Scotland, at Airhouses. The unusual assemblage of lithic materials recovered from this site makes it unique.

Daer Reservoir Excavations
Daer reservoir excavations

Interestingly one of the sites is beside a burn while the others lie further uphill and near spring courses. Other more sporadic scatters and find spots within the reservoir may yet prove to be Mesolithic in date.

The sites so far discovered no doubt were peat-covered prior to construction of the dam. Some areas within the reservoir still retain in situ peat. However, it is not known how much longer this peat will survive erosion by wave action which is why the BAG now maintains a watching brief on these areas.

It is clear that the reservoir was also settled during the Bronze Age but no sites have as yet been excavated by the Group.

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