There is no substitute for studying archaeology in the field, so over Easter, students from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute journeyed to the Western Isles to study a cross section of sites dating from the Early Neolithic to the Medieval.
The itinerary was full and included visits to Barpa Langass (Early Neolithic Tomb), Pobuill Phinn (Late Neolithic Stone Circle), Lionacleit (submerged woodland), Baile Sear (eroding later prehistoric settlement mounds), Bornais (Iron Age broch, wheelhouse and Norse settlement), Cladh Hallan (Bronze Age village), Howmore (medieval chapels) and the medieval Borve Castle. All in two days!
The location of Barpa Langass served as an introduction to the overall landscape of the Western Isles with Dr Rebecca Rennell, Lecturer in Archaeology at Lews Castle College UHI, explaining in detail the context of the monument as the wind whipped around the exposed hillside.
Up until recently, Barpa Langass was famously the best preserved Hebridean cairn in Scotland and the only example of a Neolithic tomb in the Western Isles where the chamber was still intact and accessible. However, sometime around 2011, a partial collapse of stone, including one of the principal lintels within the passageway, caused considerable damage to the site, which is sadly no longer accessible.
Progressing to Lionacleit submerged woodlands, the students, under the instruction of Dr Scott Timpany, examined the remains of trees and had a brief introduction to the stratigraphy of the location by trying their hand at auguring.
The second day was marked by a visit to Baile Sear – a small island located off the west coast of North Uist. The island itself is subject to severe and ongoing coastal erosion which has exposed a large number of Later Prehistoric remains.
Next on the relentless itinerary was Bornais Iron Age broch, wheelhouse and Norse Settlement. This location is marked by a cluster of three substantial mounds. Bornais 1 initially produced pottery of Middle Iron Age and pre-Viking Late Iron Age date (cAD500-800). Bornais 2 and Bornais 3 yielded grass-impressed sherds of the Viking period.
A very interesting feature of the location of the mounds and the chronological sequence of the three mounds is the suggestion that the origin of the township territories and organisation may lie in prehistory-possibly at the beginning of the Middle Iron Age.
Cladh Hallan, Howmore and BroveCastle were also slotted into Day Two…these sites will form part of blog posts in the future.
If you are interested in our research work, then check out our conference…
Our Islands, Our Past Conference
- Date: 14-17 September 2017
- Venue: Orkney
- Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tel: 01856 569225
The conference will be a celebration of island Identities, collective traits and traditions, through aspects of recent and contemporary archaeology. This conference intends to contribute to the Scottish Government’s ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ agenda, initiated by the Local Authorities of the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.
Please see our conference website for themes and further details.
We wish to encourage multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary contributions that engage critically with Scottish islands’ archaeology, as well as comparative islands perspectives.
We invite papers, posters, exhibitions and installations. Abstracts of no more than 150 words together with name, e-mail and institution should be sent to: email@example.com.
Call for papers closes 30th April 2017.