Excavations at High Pasture Cave and trial trenching of roundhouses in the wider landscape………

Posted by steven on 24/08/2010 at 05:59 PM

Despite some pretty wet and unsettled weather over the past few weeks, the work continues to move forward both at the High Pasture Cave site and on trial trenching the potential prehistoric roundhouses within the wider landscape of Strath Suardal.....between Broadford and Torrin.

Looking over Site 21 towards Camas Malag and Torrin

Co-Director Martin Wildgoose and a dedicated team of volunteers have braved the weather and some bad midge days to undertake the evaluation of at least 29 roundhouse structures that were identified by a detailed walkover survey, which was carried out between 2007 and the beginning of 2010. With the sites fully recorded, along with any associated field walls, ancillary structures and clearance cairns, Martin and his team have been excavating trial trenches at the sites in order to obtain details of construction of the buildings and samples for radiocarbon dating.

The trial excavation of these sites has produced some very varied and interesting results, some of which question our initial identification and interpretation of these structures in the landscapes of Scotland. One of the most exciting finds of the work so far is the potential identification of Skye’s first Neolithic building (see the image of Site 21 above), which comprises a stone revetted grassy platform from which at least 60 sherds of black burnished pottery have been recovered along with a flint end-scraper and some other flint artefacts. The pottery looks to be Neolithic in style and fabric, although we will have to await a radiocarbon date of organic samples recovered from the structure and analysis of the finds by specialists before we can make any valid interpretations of the structure.

Thomas Peter Davis recording trial trench 1 in Site 14

Thomas and Stephanie Glover excavating trial trench 1 at Site 14 to reveal the central hearth setting and some flint flakes and debitage

Tom and Steph excavating trial trench 1 at Site 14.......Steph in the lead on the number of flint artefacts recovered!

Trial trench 1 at Site 11 after a night of heavy rain....time to start bailing!!

Although most of the 15 potential roundhouses evaluated so far have produced potential prehistoric pottery and features, there have been one or two exceptions including the recovery of pottery dating to the last 200 years or so, embedded in well made cobbled surfaces in the floor of one of the structures. It is of course possible that some prehistoric structures may have been re-used and modified in the recent past, while there may also have been a lingering tradition for the construction of round houses!

Site 1 showing the surviving wall within the east quadrant

Kath Small excavating the roundhouse wall of Site 117.6

Robbed roundhouse wall at Site 64

The excavated roundhouse wall of Site 114.2

Trial trench 1 at Site 117.3 showing one of the hearth slabs and fire-cracked pebbles

Martin and his time are now over half way through their evaluation of the roundhouses in Strath Suardal and have had some excellent results. Some pottery,stone tools and flint artefacts have been recovered, along with charcoal and burnt hazelnut samples for radiocarbon dating. However, one of the major impressions of the work at this stage, is how few finds have been recovered from these sites when compared to High Pasture Cave. The dating of these sites will be crucial in providing a wider understanding of the prehistoric landscape surrounding High Pasture Cave and in understanding the function of this modified natural feature in the landscape through time. 

Previous entry: Excavation News from the High Pasture Cave site


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