About The Work

In May 2002, Steven Birch, during a routine visit to High Pasture Cave, discovered disturbed archaeological deposits in an abandoned high-level fossil passage.  The material had been cast aside as spoil by visiting cavers, who were attempting to excavate a boulder choke in order to gain new passage in the cave system.  The archaeological material included a significant amount of animal bone, shellfish remains, charcoal, fire-cracked pebbles, coarse pebble tools and pottery sherds.  During previous visits to the site, animal bone had been identified in the cave sealed beneath a layer of calcite.

Archaeological fieldwork at the cave site since the initial discovery has included survey and trial excavation, both within the cave passages and on the surface, where a complex of stone-built structures of possible prehistoric date have been identified. Pottery sherds from the assemblage of recovered artefacts from the cave passages have been tentatively identified as from the Late Bronze Age/Iron Age period.  A single radiocarbon date taken on a pig lower mandible recovered from the disturbed deposits, gave a date range of 390BC - 160BC (2195+/-40 BP - Before Present), based on a 95.4% probability - SUERC-2435 (GU-11874).  A pottery fragment recovered from secure contexts in Trench 1 (Bone Passage) may be of middle Bronze Age date (Cowie, pers comm).

A preliminary assessment and analysis of the animal bones from the cave has identified pig, cattle and deer as the main species present, with those of pig (Sus scrofa) accounting for between 80 and 90% of the assemblage, an unusually high ratio for this species from Hebridean contexts. Evidence for metalworking and bone working, including the use of antler, has also been recovered.

Figure 1.  Disturbed archaeological deposits in High Pasture Cave, as discovered in 2002 (scale=0.25m).

Archaeological fieldwork and analysis undertaken at the High Pastures site will continue to explore the relationships between the deposits in the cave and the structures on the surface, work that should enable us to place the site in its wider landscape context.

Figure 2.  Martin Wildgoose surveying and recording in Trench 1, Bone Passage in 2004.

Browse the articles in the panel on the right for more information about the work.


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