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Rubh' An Dunain, Skye

Cave (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Rubh' An Dunain, Skye

Classification Cave (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Creag A' Chapuill; Rudh' An Dunain

Canmore ID 11025

Site Number NG31NE 5

NGR NG 3995 1625

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Bracadale
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Skye And Lochalsh
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Archaeology Notes

NG31NE 5 3995 1625.

(NG 3995 1625) A small and shallow cave (15' greatest width, 9' greatest depth) excavated September, 1932 by W Lindsay Scott. The floor of the cave proved to be very disturbed and the stratification therefore mainly unreliable. However, from the few finds, its occupation seems to have commenced at the time of the later stage of the development of the chambered cairn nearby (NG31NE 2) when beakers had ousted Windmill Hill ware, and ended by the time the galleried dun (NG31NE 1) was built.

The finds included beaker sherds of A c type, with refuse representative of a stone-knapper's workshop in the same level and immediately above; also Iron Age sherds, some iron slag and a primitive Catalan forge. Neither domestic hearth nor R.B. pottery was found but a few fragments of pottery may indicate casual use in the early centuries of the present era.

The stone knapping aspect of this site is listed under the heading of 'Mesolithic Survivals', and given a possible association with the industry of Rudh'an Achaidh Mh'oir in South Morar (A D Lacaille 1954).

W L Scott 1934; A D Lacaille 1954.

Cave as described.

Visited by OS (C F W) 8 April 1961.

In 1932 Scott excavated a shallow cave or rock-shelter set into the W end of Creag a' Chapuill ridge. The cave is the farthest E of the prehistoric monuments on the Rubh' an Dunain peninsula, and has entered the archaeological literature under this name. It has also been known as Rudh' an Dunain, and is situated at an altitude of about 31m OD, 200m inland from the N end of Soay Sound and about 5 km SSW of the nearest public road at Culnamean, Minginish.

The cave was found to measure about 9' (2.7m) in depth by 15' (4.6m) transversely and was exposed to the prevailing wind and rain. The remains were interpreted as evidence for Beaker period stone-knapping, Iron Age iron-smelting and transitory occupation in the Early Historic period and in modern times.

Among the finds there was a wooden blade-like object which was found on its edge about 6" (150mm) from the Iron Age furnace and apparently in the same layer. One corner and part of the surface were reported to have suffered from rot, but the remains measured 1'6" (0.46m) in length by 5?" (140mm) in breadth and ?" (19mm) in thickness. In the ambiguous and distorted stratigraphy of the cave, it is uncertain whether this object was connected with iron-smelting activities, as Scott suggests. The published photograph suggests an identification as an oar-blade similar to that from Lochlea (NS43SE 5) but its date is uncertain.

The artifact is in store at the Royal Museum of Scotland under accession number NMS HM 301 and is identified in the accessions register as a 'spatulate wooden object'. It measures 0.45m in length by up to 140mm transversely across the blade; the blade and the diagonally-cut shoulders account for 70% of the former figure. The thickness is about 15mm throughout and there is no differentiation between the dorsal and ventral surfaces. The timber is brown in colour with burnt patches of charcoal-like texture flaking away in places, and is heavily-grained in the plane of the longitudinal axis; slight splitting has occurred. The sides, which were possibly chamfered, and the end of the blade have been worn down and rounded, giving the impression of considerable antiquity. The butt end was probably cut square across but has become irregularly worn. It is now assymetrical in form, possibly as a result of wear; on the assumption that it was formerly symmetrical, it would have measured about 160mm across.

In the absence of any evident parallel, the function of the object remains uncertain. The breadth of the blade and the shortness of the handle would, however, seem to militate against its use for maritime propulsion.

W L Scott 1934; S E Rees 1979; RMS accessions register: typescript continuation catalogue; R J C Mowat 1996, visited January 1988.


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