Allt Nan Uamh

Cave(s), Animal Remains, Awl (bone), Pin (ivory)

Site Name Allt Nan Uamh

Classification Cave(s), Animal Remains, Awl (bone), Pin (ivory)

Alternative Name(s) Creag Nan Uamh; Inchnadamph Caves; 'reindeer Cave'; 'bone Caves', Uamh An Claonaite

Canmore ID 4615

Site Number NC21NE 1

NGR NC 2679 1704

NGR Description NC 26791704 and 26801702

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Assynt
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Sutherland
  • Former County Sutherland

Archaeology Notes

NC21NE 1 2679 1704 to 2680 1702.

(NC 2679 1704 and NC 2680 1702) Caves (NAT) (Two shown)

OS 6"map, Sutherland, 1st ed., (1878)

There are four caves in a limestone cliff, about 200 ft. above Allt nan Uamh - a tributary of the Loanan, near Inchnadamph.

In 1889, Dr J Horne and Dr B N Peach explored the third cave from the west and found bones of a rich Arctic fauna with traces of human habitation (Proc Roy Soc Edinburgh 1927)

Further excavations were made in 1926 by J E Cree, caves 1 and 2 from the west being dug and a trial trench dug in the 1889 cave.

Finds included animal bones, human skeletons - one a definite burial, an iron blade a bone pin and an awl, a reindeer horn implement, cut and scratched antler and charcoal. The nature of the fauna, state of fossilation of the bones, and the geological evidence suggests an Upper Palaeolithic date, certainly belonging to Magdalenian or earlier.

Proc Roy Soc Edinburgh 1917; J G Callander, H E Cree and J Ritchie 1927.

Refers to the late Upper Palaeolithic date suggested for the occupation of the caves. The animal remains apparently represent a late arctic fauna surviving in a refuge area into early post glacial times. It suggests that the human habitation was not earlier than Mesolithic or even Neolithic in date.

A D Lacaille 1954.

The material from Allt nan Uamh is at the Royal Scottish Museum, Chambers St., Edinburgh.

Information contained in letter from A S Henshall, (Asst. Keeper, NMAS) 28 December 1961.

The most easterly cave is very shallow and little more than a rock shelter, the other three are true caves and have narrow tunnels leading off them.

Visited by OS (G H P) 6 June 1962.

No change to previous field report.

Visited by OS (J M) 11 July 1980.

Samples were taken for radiocarbon dating from bone awl and double ring headed pin of walrus ivory, found in "cave earth" during the excavation of reindeer Cave by J Cree in 1926. the bone awl had too little collagen to be datable.

Walrus ivory pin NMS HM 377 1900+/-80bp (50+/-80ad) OxA-3527

NMRS MS/735/1.

Excavations in the 1920's at the Creag nan Uamh bone caves, near Inchnadamph, aroused considerable interest in the possibility of evidence for a Palaeolithic presence in north-west Scotland. Four objects found during those excavations, including the one on which the principal claim for a Palaeolithic date was based, are published here for the first time. Two are probable Viking Age/early medieval artefacts of unusual type, one is undated but is possibly also of the same period, and the fourth, while almost certainly of Pleistocene age, is regarded as an unmodified natural object. Collectively these items serve to discount previous claims for Palaeolithic human presence. Radiocarbon dating of the human skeletal remains found, however, suggests the caves were a burial place in the Neolithic period. This paper makes extensive use of archive domumentation to put the 1920s discoveries at Crea nan Uamh and their aftermath into historical context.

Proc Soc Antiq Scot 2005; A Saville.

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