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Structure (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Pabbay

Classification Structure (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Py56

Canmore ID 145618

Site Number NL68NW 6

NGR NL 60746 87604

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

NL68NW 6 c. 60746 87604

NL c. 607 876. Earth-house (PY56). To the N of the cemetery (well-known for its Pictish symbol stone) and Early Modern village, an extensive area of the island is covered with a mantle of windblown sand, some of which has formed prominent dune mounds. On a ridge c 100m N from the cemetery in this sandy region are a number of stone clusters, some of which appear to be structured. The stones vary in size from a few tens of centimetres to slabs over 1m in length and appear as either lying on the ground surface or as slightly embedded. Excavation to clarify the structure of one example unexpectedly found that the stonework represented the upper elements of a building constructed below the ground level into the sand dune and not an Early Modern surface structure, as was first thought.

Full excavation to floor level revealed a building plan consisting of a cluster of circular rooms opening into an antechamber at the W end of a passage leading to an entrance hall. To the E from the hall opened a single large circular room distinguished by the presence of a number of free-standing stone roof supports. It is now clear that some of the large stone slabs first recorded on the surface were in fact part of the roofing, which although in the right place at the right height had been displaced and no longer formed a roof structure. The inadequate quantity of roofing stone on the site also indicated extensive robbing, and inspection of the stonework in the Early Modern village produced many possible relocation places, especially as doorway lintel stones.

Dating was not immediately possible, but pottery found on the floor surface is thick, hand-made, friable and in the form of a large barrel jar with an upright rounded rim profile which may be Bronze Age. A ceramic and soil sample was taken for TL dating and a small quantity of animal bone was collected for radiocarbon dating. Due to the lack of time the floor level deposit was not disturbed, saving it for possible future analysis. The building had been constructed up to 1m deep into the dune and after abandonment windblown sand had completely filled the building to ground level (ie roof level).

The site was refilled with the sand to just below the wall tops leaving the outline of the building open to inspection. Roof slabs were laid to one side and a large saddle quern was left on the surface at the W end.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, University of Sheffield, Institute of Archaeology, Prague.

P Foster 1998.


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