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South Uist, Usinish Bay

Roundhouse (Prehistoric), Unidentified Pottery

Site Name South Uist, Usinish Bay

Classification Roundhouse (Prehistoric), Unidentified Pottery

Canmore ID 10144

Site Number NF83SE 2

NGR NF 85437 33374

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Western Isles
  • Parish South Uist
  • Former Region Western Isles Islands Area
  • Former District Western Isles
  • Former County Inverness-shire


Trial Trench (1969)

Usinish Bay. NF 854334.

Probable round cairn, some 10 m. in diameter.

Only the tops of several large stones, possibly part of a chamber, are visible above the peat which in this area is at least 2 m. deep, but the edge of the cairn has been approximately planned by a resistivity survey. A small trial trench in the centre revealed on the top of the cairn a stone setting enclosing a burnt area about 2 m. by 1 m. containing ash, charcoal, a few scraps of burnt bone, and many fragments of a large pot. Some of the sherds have an applied band forming a semicircle, similar to a sherd from the Early Iron Age site at Balevullin, Tiree. Another trial pit at the edge of the cairn showed that the lowest stones of the cairn rest on clay overlying raised beach material.

Schools Hebridean Society, per Geoffrey David, Doll, Kinloch Rannoch.

Excavation (1970)

Usinish Bay. NF 854 334.

The ‘probable round cairn’ found in 1969 (DES 1969, 27) was investigated by excavating one quarter down to bedrock. The cairn material formed a platform of angular blocks carefully fitted together, with a regular outer edge. This had been covered in peat to an average depth of 1m and overlay a thin bed of clayey soil on top of bedrock. The soil contained many sherds of indeterminate handmade pottery, all in small fragments, with some specks of charcoal. A resistivity survey suggests a cairn roughly circular in plan, with a base diameter of about 13m.

Peat samples were taken at 5cms interevals from bedrock up to the present ground surface, and a control pit dug some distance from the cairn revealed the depth of 2.27m of peat overlying 30cms of earth, of which the upper 10cms contained charcoal streaks.

The Schools Hebridean Society, per GC David, Tain Royal Academy.

Excavation (1973)

Usinish Bay. NF 854334.

The "probable round cairn" (Discovery and Ex- cavation 1970, p. 26) was investigated further, with the excavation of the opposing quadrant down to the stone work of the cairn and the old ground surface. No identifiable structures were found on the cairn itself, but the edge of the cairn was again fairly regular, and still standing to a height of 0.50 m in parts. The cairn is roughly circular, about 15 m in diameter. On the old ground surface, now covered by 1 - 2 m of peat, more fragments of pottery were found, some with decoration of E.I.A. type.

The Schools Hebridean Society per GC David.

Field Visit (23 April 2013)

This site is certainly the remains of that excavated by the Schools Hebridean Society between 1969 and 1973 (David 1969; 1970; 1973). Although interpreted by the excavators as a cairn, from which they recovered fragments of pottery ‘with decoration of Early Iron Age’ type (David 1969; 1973), in its current condition it appears to represent the remains of a prehistoric building. Much of the excavated area is still exposed, and the rubble-strewn mound measures about 13m from N to S by 11m transversely. The feature interpreted by the excavators as a ‘regular outer edge’ (David 1970) may in fact be the outer face of a wall, and further stonework exposed in the interior is suggestive of wheelhouse construction.

Visited by RCAHMS (AGCH) and Historic Scotland (CB) 23 April 2013


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