Then earlier this year two Glasgow University archaeologists - Dr Adrián Maldonado and Dr Ewan Campbell - arranged to have them radiocarbon dated at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre . They demonstrated that the hut was not a later structure – but did indeed date, in line with Thomas’ theory, to somewhere between 540 and 650 AD.St Columba was Abbot of Iona from the date of the monastery’s foundation (563 AD) till his death (597 AD).Now we know they belonged to a structure which stood there in Columba’s lifetime.
For centuries, local Gaelic folk tradition seems to have held that a natural grass-covered rock outcrop (known as the Tòrr an Aba) was specifically associated with an important abbot.
What’s more that rocky knoll fitted a late 7th century account describing the location of St Columba’s hut.
Luckily Thomas kept hold of them, as he knew they were important, and because they were kept dry, they were still in a good condition.
“Thomas always believed he and his team had uncovered Columba’s original wooden hut, but they could never prove it because the technology wasn’t there.
From here, he oversaw the day-to-day activities of his monastery”.
The announcement of the discovery follows the recent unearthing of early medieval remains at another key monastic site – Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland.
Finally, just before the pilgrims would have arrived at St Columba’s tomb, they would have passed three large sculpted stone crosses (each only around 5 m from the next), commemorating the lives of St Martin, St Matthew and St John.
Commenting on the hut date findings, Glasgow University archaeologist, Dr Adrián Maldonado, said: “This discovery is massive. “We were granted access to the original finds from Charles Thomas, and we could work on his notes and charcoal samples which were excavated in 1957.
Professor Thomas Clancy, Celtic and Gaelic historian at the University of Glasgow, said: “The results of the radiocarbon dating are nothing short of exhilarating.