Trench 2 extension reveals more finds

Posted by steven on 22/06/2005 at 08:20 AM

Although the weather has remained unsettled during the past week, we have managed to make some progress with the excavation of the Trench 2 extension. Read on to see what we found.

Some heavy rain and strong winds continues to make progress difficult at the High pastures site. We have made a new wooden frame covering the Trench 2 extension and Trench 3, so tarpaulin sheets can be rigged to protect the archaeology and the excavators, allowing work to proceed during showers. The image below shows the

High Pastures site with the new cover in place and a new lifting tripod so we can remove spoil more efficiently from the bottom of Trench 2. We are now close to removing the last of the archaeological deposits in the extension to the trench, which cover the large hearth slab (feature F210) and the mass of stonework that most likely relates to the former entrance into the cave passages below ground. The stratigraphy here is quite complex, comprising distinct lenses of peat ash and charcoal-rich material, interspersed with fire-cracked pebbles and stone. These lenses form a dome, spreading away from the hearth features we have located here and dipping down steeply towards the back of the trench extension (to the west). During the excavation

we uncovered a posthole complete with packing stones (see image above), which had been cut through the lenses of peat ash.

During the excavation of the Trench 2 extension we have recovered a few artefacts including pebble grinding tools, hammer stones and some artefacts made of bone and antler (click on the link for more information). The most significant finds however were made yesterday (21st June). Early in the day two granite anvil stones were found and a corroded iron object, which may be a knife handle or projectile point. Towards the end of the day, just as we were removing thick lenses of peat ash, a cache of beach-rounded pebbles and cobbles was uncovered. A total of 23 items was retrieved from the central location within the Trench 2 extension, 15 of which showed evidence of use. The tools comprise mainly pebble grinders and hammer stones, while several items revealed more unusual forms of wear.

The discovery of this cache of tools is the largest made so far at the High Pastures site and must have been deposited together, along with pebble blanks. Does the deposition of this group of objects represent a type of ‘toolkit’ used in some special process at the High Pastures site? Tools that had some special significance to the prehistoric inhabitants of the area? During the excavation of Trench 2 pebble tools, especially the bevelled forms, have comprised the most common type of artefact. It is possible of course that these items were utilised on a variety of processes and tasks during the Iron Age. But we cannot rule out their use in a ‘special’ process such as in the manufacture of iron. The cache of tools, which should be treated as a distinct group for now, will provide a unique opportunity for research. We have a wide variety of stone tools from Iron Age sites in Scotland, for which we have no known function. 

The location from where the tools were recovered is also interesting. We are now recovering increasing numbers of artefacts from immediately above the entrance into Bone Passage. After the backfilling of the passage during the Iron Age, removing any trace of this original entrance into the cave, the location must have remained important to the prehistoric inhabitants of the area, marking this with the deposition of items from domestic contexts and daily life. 

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