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Date May 2000 - June 2001

Event ID 998241

Category Project

Type Project


NB 5355 6501 Work was carried out in May 2000 and May and June 2001 on the tidal island of Dun Eistean (NMRS NB 56 NW 01). This represented the initial stage of a long-term project to investigate the archaeology on the island. The island is believed to be the ancestral home of the Clan Morrison.

The survey made a detailed record of the existing remains and enabled a preliminary statement regarding their age, function and condition. It was seen that there are eight main structures on the island. These are all well preserved and, given the varied morphology, they may indicate activity from the Iron Age through to the post-medieval period. The mainland peninsula adjacent to Dun Eistean was also surveyed. The entire area is almost covered in cultivation remains or lazy beds, and four other structures were also revealed, but these are probably natural.

A geophysical survey was conducted in May 2001 and revealed further structures separate from and related to the existing ones. Resistivity and gradiometer surveys were conducted, the latter being more successful. Two positive linear anomalies approximately 3m wide and with a gap of 1.5m possibly indicate a rock-cut ditch around the main Structure G. There is a gap to the S of this anomaly of 1.5m which may indicate a causeway or entrance. Another significant anomaly lay immediately to the E of Structure A, which may indicate an area of intensive burning.

Four trenches were opened during the trial excavation, which followed the geophysical survey. Trench 1 measured 8 x 2m and lay N-S across the southern half of Structure G. This uncovered a mass of tumbled masonry, under which stood the perfectly preserved remains of a clay-bonded stone wall, to a height of 1.5m. This indicated that the structure is a small keep or tower house, approximately 3 x 4m in plan. No entrance or other features were found, although a stone tile was recovered which may have been from the roof of the building.

Trench 2 measured 3 x 5m and was situated over a possible feature indicated by the geophysical survey. Unfortunately this turned out to be outcropping bedrock.

Trench 3 measured 4 x 2m and was placed within cell 12 of Structure D, also incorporating part of Structure H. This wall was revealed as being mainly built of turf, with some revetting on the external face. The sides of the cell were also constructed from turf and were built against the external wall. Although no hearth was present, an occupation floor was excavated, which contained approximately 100 sherds of pottery, 19 pieces of burnt bone, four lithics and a piece of slag. The pottery is mostly Craggan Ware, although two diagnostic sherds were recovered, one of green-glazed pottery, and the other of a decorated, brown, salt-glazed ware which has been identified as coming from Germany.

Trench 4 measured 4 x 2m and was situated over the first cell of Structure A. A stone and turf wall was revealed, and a small stone partition. Approximately 50 sherds were recovered from this trench, plus the occasional quartz flake. Again the pottery had a fine black fabric, and is probably Craggan Ware.

All the trenches were backfilled, and a more extensive excavation of the structures is planned in the future.

The structures report and diagrams can be found on the GUARD internet site, at 716index.htm.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Clan Morrison Society, Comunn Eachdraidh Nis, Commhairle nan Eilean Siar.

C Barrowman 2001.

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