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Eigg, Galmisdale

Metal Working Site (Bronze Age), Unidentified Flint(S) (Flint)

Site Name Eigg, Galmisdale

Classification Metal Working Site (Bronze Age), Unidentified Flint(S) (Flint)

Canmore ID 215188

Site Number NM48SE 36

NGR NM 47483 84407

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Small Isles
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Lochaber
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Archaeology Notes

NM48SE 36 c.475 844

NM 475 844 During May 2001, the discovery of what was later identified as prehistoric metalworking debris was reported to members of a team from the RCAHMS, while engaged on a field survey of the island of Eigg. An islander had been burying a cat in the lee of a large boulder near his house at Galmisdale. In the course of digging the pit he encountered what he identified as fragments of clay piece-moulds, crucibles and other associated casting debris. He brought his finds to the attention of the survey team and the Late Bronze Age character of the material was then first recognised.

The finds were brought to the attention of the NMS, where their identification and the significance of the discovery was confirmed. The mould fragments indicate the production of at least two socketed axes, what is probably a knife, and also at least one other type as yet unidentified. The character of the clay refractory material and the metalwork types involved probably indicate a date for this activity between about 1000-800 BC. In Britain and Ireland as a whole, sites producing evidence of Bronze Age metalworking activity remain at a premium. The recovery of a significant quantity of metalworking debris from Galmisdale therefore indicates a site of potential importance in terms of informing our knowledge of workshop practices.

Exploratory fieldwork was undertaken in June 2001 in order to assess the original context of the finds. Surface indications, coupled with the finder's account of his own excavation, initially suggested that the metalworking activity might have been taking place within an oval setting of large boulders, formed around the large boulder which first drew his attention to the spot. However, it transpired that the boulder structure was probably later than the metalworking episode, and may represent the construction of a small pen or shelter in the course of later agricultural activity. No definite in situ evidence of metalworking was located, but further fragments of clay mould were found lying in the deep slope-wash deposits which had accumulated against the largest boulder. Although the finder's original excavation may yet prove to have removed much of the evidence, these suggest that the focus for the metalworking may have been just uphill from the trenches investigated in 2001.

The largest boulder, which drew the finder to the spot initially, was clearly an original feature of the terrace on which the site lay. Tucked into the old ground surface at its foot was a small cache of over 40 flint flakes and tools. The flints await detailed analysis but their character suggests a Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date, indicating activity at the spot long prior to the metalworking episode and perhaps testifying to the importance of this boulder as an enduring feature of the local landscape.

On the terrace immediately above that occupied by the site, there is one previously recorded hut circle (NMRS NM48SE 12) and possible indications of field clearance, suggesting the metalworking may have taken place within an area of settlement rather than in isolation. However, on the basis of the debris recovered so far, the metalworking episode itself may have been small-scale and short-lived, and may not have required any formal built structure. Together with clarification of the various phases of human activity in the immediate vicinity of the boulder, the detection and excavation of any remaining undisturbed portions of the actual locus of the metalworking are the chief priorities for further work planned for 2002.

Sponsor: National Museum of Scotland.

T Cowie 2001

NM 475 844 Further excavations were carried out in June 2002 to clarify the context of the Late Bronze Age metalworking debris discovered in 2001. The results suggest that the metalworking episode was both small-scale and short-lived, and that the spread of metalworking debris was largely confined to the interior of the boulder setting (DES 2001, 63). Further fragments of clay piece-moulds, crucibles and other associated casting debris were recovered. In addition, two trial trenches were excavated to assess the condition and possible date of the hut circle on the terrace above the site (NM48SE 12).

Sponsor: NMS.

T Cowie 2002


Field Visit (May 2001)

The site was mapped by RCAHMS in 2001.

EIGG01 596

Visited by RCAHMS (DCC) May 2001


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