An archaeologist’s ranging rod
on Tòrr an Aba
|From 1956 to 1963 Professor Charles Thomas excavated a number of small trenches within the abbey precinct, across the vallum, on Tòrr an Aba and on the Iron Age hillfort at Dùn Bhuirg. His work at the abbey produced artefacts which help us understand aspects of the early monastery, including window glass and evidence of fine metalworking. One tiny object is especially important – a 5cm-long cast bronze lion, which probably adorned a reliquary, and is identical to lions depicted in the Book of Kells. Further small excavations continued in the 1960s into the 1970s focused on the monastic guest house and the east side of the abbey.
In 1979, a large area was excavated when Reilig Odhrain burial ground was extended to the north. This was more the successful than previous investigations in revealing remains of the Columban monastery. A major early inner ditch was found beside the entrance, with well-preserved organic remains in the waterlogged fills. Parts of leather shoes were found along with evidence of other craft skills including metalworking, glassmaking, and wood-turning.