High Pasture Cave Project Open Days

Posted by steven on 10/09/2006 at 09:00 AM

Visit the latest News Page to find out about the planned Open Days at the High Pasture’s site, which will be run throughout Highland Archaeology Fortnight (HAF), and for updates on fieldwork at the site.....

High Pasture Cave Project Open Days

The Project Team will be running a series of Open Days at the High Pasture’s site from Monday 2nd through to Saturday 14th October 2006, which will form a part of the Highland Archaeology Fortnight (see leaflets and booklets advertising this event at your local libraries and Highland Council Service Points). Discover how archaeology can enhance our understanding of the prehistory through excavation and craft reconstructions. Guided tours of the excavations and on-site displays will provide a background to the archaeological fieldwork, while Highland Council Ranger-led guided walks will explore the wider natural and archaeological landscapes. The Highland Council Rangers will also be hosting activity days at the site targeting a younger audience, in which children (or adults) can have a go at jewellery-making, pottery and other crafts, with face painting for the more adventurous!

John and Val Lord, who will be demonstrating prehistoric skills and crafts at the High Pasture Cave site

The highlight of what should be a very exciting few days will be a visit from John and Val Lord, who will be demonstrating various crafts and skills from prehistory including flint knapping, antler and bone work, and cordage manufacture. John and Val are known throughout the UK for their excellent displays and their days on site should be a treat for children and adults alike. So be sure to come along and savour the experience. Depending on the weather conditions events may change and vary slightly however, we will have a small marquee on site in which activities can take place in the dry. The basic timetable of events is as follows:

Monday 2nd to Saturday 14th October - Site excavations, guided tours and on-site displays

Thursday 5th to Monday 9th October - Prehistoric crafts and skills with John and Val Lord

4th and 11th October - Highland Council Ranger-led walks

7th, 11th, 12th and 13th October - ‘Iron Age Crafts for Kids at the Cave’ with the Highland Council Rangers (John Phillips and Sarah Kay)

John and Sarah can be contacted for further details regarding the guided walks and childrens events on 01471 822774, while John and Val Lord’s web pages can be found at

A visitor to the Open Day’s held at the High Pasture’s site in October 2005

Steven Birch, Co-Director of the High Pasture’s site, will also be presenting illustrated talks on the project throughout Scotland on the following dates:

06/09/2006 - St. Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, Orkney - High Pasture Cave: Entrance to the Iron Age Underworld

13/10/2006 - Columba 1400 Centre, Staffin, Skye - Investigating the Prehistory of Skye - Recent Archaeological Fieldwork (University of Aberdeen Evening Lecture Programme).

14/10/2006 - Ramada Jarvis Hotel, Inverness - High Pasture Cave & Environs Project - Recent Developments. This lecture is within the programme of talks planned for the What’s New in Highland Archaeology Seminar, which will take place in Inverness over the 14th and 15th October.

27/10/2006 - Elgol & Torrin Historical Society (Elgol Village Hall) - High Pasture Cave: Entrance to the Iron Age Underworld

08/12/2006 - Day Care Centre, Raasay - High Pasture Cave: Portal to the Iron Age Underworld (University of Aberdeen Evening Lecture Porgramme)

06/02/2007 - Dunvegan W.I., Old School House, Dunvegan - High Pasture Cave Project - Recent Developments

12/03/2007 - Lecture Theatre, National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh - Ritualising the Domestic: The Excavation of an Iron Age Shrine at High Pasture Cave, Skye (Lecture to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland)

13/03/2007 - Marishcal Museum, University of Aberdeen - Ritualising the Domestic: The Excavation of an Iron Age Shrine at High Pasture Cave, Skye (Lecture to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland - North-East Branch)

Meanwhile, fieldwork at the High Pasture Cave site has made some good progress, finishing the excavations in Trenches 6, 7 and 10.

Trenches 7 and 10

Trench 10, which was set out to investigate a potential buried wall for the ‘roundhouse’ feature, has now been excavated down to the natural clay. No wall was found in this trench. What we did find was a haphazard pile of granite boulders covering a fairly clean brown soil, which had formed over the top of a thin, but compact layer of fire-cracked stone and pebbles. Below this layer was more clean brown sediment, which lay directly on top of the natural karstic clay. This had a few outcrops of natural limestone bedrock showing through and within the clay we noticed several potential cut features that had been filled with a darker sediment. On excavation most of these turned out to be natural hollows filled with the overlying sediment and rat tunnels, but the excavation of one feature revealed a fairly deep pit that had been cut into the clay. The pit contained a fill of mixed sediments containing small flecks of charcoal, but no finds. However, the charcoal recovered from the pit will allow radiocarbon submissions to be made, and this should provide dates for this feature.

The sectioned pit feature in Trench 10, showing the fill of darker-coloured sediments (Scale=1m)

A view of the east-facing section of Trench 10. The image clearly shows the lack of any constructional features relating to the potential roundhouse originally identified in this part of the site (Scale=1m)

Plan of the core area of the High Pasture’s site showing the approximate locations of the trenches excavated so far

Although no finds were recovered from the pit feature, George Kozikowski did find a small sherd of pottery from a shallow scoop feature in the trench. The fabric and quality of the pottery was quite different to the more usual ceramic assemblage recovered from High Pasture’s, and may relate to the use of the site during an earlier period of prehistory.

Trench 6

Trench 6 has now been excavated down to the natural limestone floor. When we first started excavating the trench in 2005 access was on hands and knees in this sector of Bone Passage, but now there is ample room to stand upright.

Martin standing on the limestone bedrock floor of Bone Passage, with the stairwell entrance behind

The excavation of the lower archaeological deposits continued to produce a wealth of small finds including spindle whorls, bone pins and coarse stone tools, many of which were located in close proximity to the bottom two steps of the entrance stairwell. Animal bone and burnt bone was also recovered, but as we excavated deeper down towards the limestone floor washed gravels and cobbles were exposed, which appeared more natural in origin. A small alcove under the southwest wall of the cave passage at floor level was filled with these natural-looking deposits, but we continued to find a few small fragments of bone. However, the most exciting finds from the alcove were two small sherds of pottery, both of which showed some chevron/lozenge-style decoration. The pottery was well-fired and had been blackened by the natural deposits in which they were found. These ceramics, like those found in the shallow scoop feature in Trench 10 mentioned above, appear to be from earlier prehistory and could be Early Bronze Age or Neolithic in date. If so, then we may have evidence for the use of the cave some 3500 to 5000 years ago. Like the other materials recovered from the site, the pottery will be analysed by specialists who should be able to identify the material with more certainty.

The image above shows the lower archaeological deposits in Trench 6 and the bottom steps of the stairwell. Animal bone is littered across the surface of this context, while the large item near the scale (scale=0.25m) is a granite quern rubber. The image below shows the bottom steps of the stairwell after excavation. A significant number of small finds were recovered from this liminal location in the cave, where the man-made stairwell meets the natural cave (scale=1m).

Details of the finds mentioned in this site entry can be found in the Latest Finds page. The material includes several objects made of steatite or soapstone. Work at the site will now focus on Trench 11, a new trench to investigate the U-shaped structure that dominates the core area of the site, and on excavating trial trenches to investigate anomalies identified through the recent geophysical surveys. Therefore, site volunteers are still required to assist the project team with this work.

Next entry: Open Days a great success at the High Pasture Cave site

Previous entry: Natural floor of the cave uncovered in Bone Passage

Posted by on 04/11/2006 at 04:20 PM

cool smile
My daughter, Iris, visited High Pasture Cave with her school (Struan Primary) in October 2006. She thoroughly enjoyed the day and said it was the best school trip ever, and she also enjoyed John and Val’s demonstrations. After her visit I went on your website and found it not only informative but also very interesting and the virtual tour was cool. My daughter and I hope to visit next season.

Posted by on 09/10/2006 at 08:13 AM

Thank you for the time you spent talking us through your work last Monday. Good luck with the project. We will be following progress with great interest. Hope the carbon dates on the burial fit with the possible Brigid connection.

Posted by on 03/10/2006 at 04:15 PM

My wife and I would like to thank Steven and all his team for their superb hospitality and patience when we recently visited the site. We would urge everybody who can possibly make it to go along to the Open Days at High Pasture, and see for themselves this very impressive and internationally important archaeological investigation. The location itself is stunningly beautiful and one cannot help but to be transported back to the times of our ancestors, who created and lived in and around this spectacular site. Certainly, for my wife and I, we felt the continuity of a common history and shared antecedents with the peoples of the High Pasture, who carved out the “hard way” the land that we now know as Britain. Keep up the good work guys and may the funding keep coming in for such a worthwhile project! Thanks once again for a most enjoyable visit. Tony & June

Posted by on 29/09/2006 at 12:55 PM

Looking forward to renewing our friendship again on the high pasture cave front and telling you of our recent finds and discoveries.
Keep up the good work Steven, Martin and George et al

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