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Benbecula, Hacklett

Burial Cairn (Prehistoric), Cup Marked Stone (Prehistoric), Standing Stone (Prehistoric)

Site Name Benbecula, Hacklett

Classification Burial Cairn (Prehistoric), Cup Marked Stone (Prehistoric), Standing Stone (Prehistoric)

Canmore ID 10203

Site Number NF85SW 3

NGR NF 84444 53837

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/10203

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

Archaeology Notes

NF85SW 3 8445 5381.

(Area NF 844 538) A slab of stone, 10ft 2ins, by 5 1/2ft by 8 to 12ins thick lies on the summit of a rocky knoll called Hacklett, on the east side of an inlet forming part of the Sound of Flodday, some 400 yards. north of Loch an Tairbh, Benbecula, at 50ft above sea level. It has 9 hollows on its upper surface of which 8 are almost certainly cup marks. A ring mark on one end, noticed by Carmichael (A A Carmichael 1871) and Jolly (W Jolly 1882), was not seen by Lyford-Pike (J D Lyford-Pike 1941) When first seen by Carmichael, the slab formed the roof of a piggery, but, originally, it was probably a standing stone.

A A Carmichael 1871; W Jolly 1882; J D Lyford-Pike 1941; RCAHMS 1928.

The cup-marked stone, described above, is at NF 8445 5381, on the farmstead of Hacklett Uachdar. The nine hollows are still visible and the ring-mark, seen by Carmichael and Jolly, was probably a natural arc which can be seen at the top of the face of the stone.

Visited by OS (R D) 26 May 1965.

Activities

Field Visit (16 July 1915)

Cup-marked Stone, Hacklett.

On the summit of a rocky knoll on the southern side of the Sound of Flodday, some 400 yards north of Loch an Tairbh, at an elevation of 50 feet above sea-level, is a slab of stone (Fig. 158.), apparently a standing stone which has been overthrown. It measures 10 feet 2 inches in length, 5 feet 6 inches in breadth, and from 1 foot in thickness at the base to 8 inches at the top. On the upper half of the stone, on its present superior surface, are eight hollows, of which five are undoubted cup-marks. They vary from 3 ½ inches in diameter and 1 ¼ inches in depth to 2 inches in diameter and ½ inch in depth. The best cut cup measures 2 ½ inches in diameter and ¼ inches in depth. The stone rests on several large blocks, and in the immediate neighbourhood there is a number of large stones. It is quite impossible to determine the character of the original structure which doubtless occupied this site, as it has been despoiled to build the house and enclosures on the eastern slopes of the knoll. See Proc. Soc. Ant. Scot., VIII., 285.

RCAHMS 1928, visited 16 July 1915

OS map: South Uist xlv (unnoted).

Note (14 September 2018)

Date Fieldwork Started: 14/09/2018

Compiled by: Uists

Location Notes: Generally as described in Canmore. Elevation probably slightly higher than 50ft as, according to OS mapping, the site lies above the 20m contour. The location has extensive views in all directions and is quite prominent in the locality. The panel lies on the top of a crescent shaped, grass covered mound, measuring around 15m NW - SE by between 4 and 6m transversely within which are several embedded upright slabs/boulders. Recent rabbit burrowing has revealed the mound, in part at least, to be a midden, from within which limpet and razor clam shells and bottle glass shards have been thrown out. The panel is within the ruined farmstead of Hacklett Uachdar (Upper), which comprises at least three blackhouse type buildings (all of which are shown roofed on the OS 1st edition survey in 1878), together with a number of other drystone structures including byres, enclosure walls, and stone piles, some of which are possibly clearance cairns. Farmsteads at this kind of high, exposed location are most unusual in this part of Uist, and the conclusion can be reasonably drawn that the site was chosen because a large quantity of stone was available. The most likely origin of that stone, again at this kind of prominent location, was probably a burial cairn. Carmichael's comments from 1870 tend to support this when he says "On one side of the slab (the NE) the knoll is seemingly composed of stones and earth, and I fancy there are some passages......." The notion that the slab was formerly in an upright position comes from the 2015 RCAHMS survey, but in truth there is no more evidence for this use than there is for the possible alternative function as a roof slab.

Panel Notes: This is a large, roughly rectangular recumbent slab, measuring 3.1 X 1.7m with its long axis orientated roughly NE - SW. Lying tilted slightly downwards towards both the NW and NE, its NE perimeter is supported on single leaf, roughly constructed stone rubble walls, with that on the SE side terminating at its SW end with a single embedded boulder. This allows the slab to cantilever out over the open SW end of the space thus enclosed and act as its roof. Between 0.8 and 0.4m high within, and reportedly used as a pig sty when visited by Alexander Carmichael in 1870, it is not clear if the original hollow was already in existence, or excavated out of the existing mound, or back-filled externally after construction. The extent of the mound with its embedded upright boulders and slabs and midden material ejected from rabbit burrows suggest it could even be a combination of all three.

As far as can be seen, all of the carving is on the panel's upper surface. Whilst being generally smooth, the surface is slightly undulating, and these features together with five natural grooves up to 0.3m long are consistent with weathered gneiss surfaces observed on Uist. Most of the carved features are located on the panel's SW end and can be divided into three categories:

1. A number of probable and possible cup marks;

2. A partially complete circle around 1.3m in diameter;

3. Two sets of initials in capital letters.

The initials are clearly modern and are located near the panel's S corner, adjacent to, and on either side of, the carved circle. They appear to represent the letters 'DA(?)MI' and 'NMI'. 'MI' probably represents the surname MacInnes which was, and still is, quite common in this part of Uist. These were not reported by any of the earlier recorders, including the OS in 1965. The carved circle was first mentioned by Alasdair Carmichael in 1870, and the area it encloses almost fills the SW end of the slab. The circle's centre point can be identified as lying within one of the four natural grooves mentioned previously, and photogrammetry reveals this point to have been slightly enlarged. The carved circumference is clearly identifiable for a continuous arc of around 255 degrees, extending from the slab's NW edge clockwise round to its S corner. At this point the line would have extended beyond the edge of the slab's upper face for a distance of around 30 degrees and the remainder is either missing or obscured by an area of rougher stone surface covered with lichen. The carved groove is V or U shaped in cross section and typically 10mm wide at the surface with a variable depth up to 3 or 4mm. This circle is not mentioned by the RCAHMS surveyors in 1915, though it was clearly in existence at that time. Canmore notes that the OS surveyors in 1965 believed this circle to be '.......probably a natural arc', but this comment appears to be completely counter to the clearly observable accuracy and precision of what has been created.

In 1914, the RCAHMS surveyors identified ".......eight hollows of which five are undoubted cup marks". In his 1941 paper Lyford-Pyke identified nine cup marks in total of which he suggested eight were probable and one possible. His drawing shows seven of these located within the carved circle, one just outside, and one remotely positioned right in the N corner of the slab. Photogrammetry has revealed a further seven possible cup marks, two of which lie within the circle and five without, with three of these grouped together near the slabs SE edge. During a final survey visit on 04-06-19 all 16 cup marks were reviewed in line with the ScRAP methodology, and of these, 6 were assessed to be probable of which 2 were highly likely, and the remainder possible. Links to the 3D model and its context:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1q_ROHCHwuJPNZVcCjSIsmGWtaprLws5J

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1XN05G5SCHpJtWMg8K356_R9JaYLQ6Q0-

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