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Midden(S) (Period Unassigned), Rock Shelter(S) (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Sand

Classification Midden(S) (Period Unassigned), Rock Shelter(S) (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Sand 1; Sand 2

Canmore ID 157986

Site Number NG64NE 5

NGR NG 6841 4934

NGR Description NG 6841 4934 and NG 6837 4936

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Applecross
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NG64NE 5 6841 4934 and 6837 4936

The following sites were recorded between January and September 1999 as part of the Scotland's First Settlers Project. A full report has been lodged with the NMRS.

NG 6841 4934 Sand 1 is a rock shelter with a shallow but wide overhang above what appears to be a late glacial coastline. Eleven test trenches were opened during August 1999. Most trenches yielded some material but trench 9 was the only one to produce significant anthropogenic material, including a substantial midden and artefacts including microliths and fragments of bone and antler. There appear to be no deposits surviving within the shallow rock shelter, however the terrace in front has a discrete midden deposit containing well-preserved organic remains. In addition there appears to be evidence for activity around the midden in the form of a lithic scatter and fire-shattered rocks. Seven bone tools and 450 lithics, including eight narrow blade microliths were found, as well as one barbed-and-tanged point from the surface.

NG 6837 4936 Sand 2 Rock shelter. +

Note: + = containing visible midden

Sponsors: British Academy, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of London, Percy Hedley Trust, Russell Trust, Prehistoric Society, Applecross Trust.

B Finlayson, K Hardy and C Wickham-Jones 1999

NG 6841 4934 A major excavation was carried out at the Mesolithic shell midden site of Sand. The midden lies just outside a shallow rockshelter 500m from the present sea level, at a height of 27.7m. No evidence survives to indicate prehistoric use of the rockshelter but two L-shaped trenches, Trench A (20 x 2m) and Trench B (25 x 2m) were opened downslope to excavate 90m² across the midden and the area immediately surrounding it. Preliminary results suggest that the midden (90% limpet) may have accumulated over a very short time, possibly a few seasons. The midden contained both Obanian-type bone artefacts and narrow blade microliths in direct association, thus suggesting that these artefact types are not mutually exclusive. The relatively small number of fish bones suggests that shellfish were used for food, and not simply for bait. There were large numbers of stone pot boilers, apparently an indication of the processing of shellfish, and it is likely that the bevel-ended bone tools were also involved. While shellfish remain dominant, the presence of charred hazelnuts, animal bone and fish bone indicate the use of a wide range of other resources. The presence of inedible dog whelk, harvested during the Neolithic for the extraction of purple dye, is indicative of the importance of some form of colour or art. Beneath the midden lay a non-midden layer containing a large quantity of antler and animal bone. Non-midden deposits were also present to either side of the midden. These include microliths and other stone tools.

A full report has been lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of London, Prehistoric Society, Russell Trust, Applecross Estates Trust, Munro Fund, University of Edinburgh, Ross and Cromarty Enterprise, Leader 11, CFA, private donations.

K Hardy and C Wickham-Jones 2000

A further radiocarbon date comes from an adult incisor found towards the top of the shell midden at Sand: 3615+65 bp. This is very similar to dates from human bone on other Mesolithic shell midden sites and adds weight to suggestions of a pattern of later activity in the vicinity of the middens. A child's molar was also found in the shell midden, but is too small to be dated.

Full report deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsors: HS, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, British Academy

K Hardy and C R Wickham-Jones 2002

NG 6841 4934 Geophysical survey (magnetometry) was conducted over a partially excavated shell midden (DES 2000, 45) as part of the Scottish Mesolithic Geophysical Survey Project, with inconclusive results.

Sponsors: Robertson Bequest Fund, University of Glasgow - Dept Archaeology.

N Finlay 2004


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