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Iona, An Eala

Burial Ground (Medieval), Long Cist(S) (Medieval)

Site Name Iona, An Eala

Classification Burial Ground (Medieval), Long Cist(S) (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Martyrs' Bay; Port Nam Mairtir

Canmore ID 21641

Site Number NM22SE 32

NGR NM 2846 2387

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/21641

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

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilfinichen And Kilvickeon
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NM22SE 32 2846 2387

(NM 2846 2387) An Eala: A small, artificial mound, excavated by R Reece for the Russell Trust in 1969, after two burials had been disturbed during the laying of the water main.

Reece uncovered about forty burials, the earliest in cists and all oriented. The arrangement and sequence suggested a burial ground in use over a period between the 6th and 10th centurys.

The mound is said to have been used for resting of coffins after landing, while the funeral parties performed the 'deisiol' three times round the mound.

The name 'An Eala' is a corruption of the Irish word for a coffin.

D M Wilson and D G Hurst 1970; Name Book 1878; W Reeves 1857; OS 6" map annotated by O G S Crawford 1935.

An amorphous turf-covered mound.

Visited by OS (JP) 8 June 1972.

Site recorded by AOC (Scotland) Ltd during an archaeological survey of the lands controlled by the National Trust for Scotland on Iona. This survey was conducted in late May and early April of 1996. The full report of this survey has been deposited with both the local SMR and the NMRS.

NM 2845 2387 Mound; burial ground

Sponsor: National Trust for Scotland

T Rees 1996

Activities

Excavation (August 1969)

Following the laying of the water main in 1961 which disturbed two burials,the south west quadrant of mound was excavated in August 1969. The ecavation revealed about forty burials.

Richard Reece 1981, 3, 63

Field Visit (8 June 1972)

An amorphous turf-covered mound.

Visited by OS (JP) 8 June 1972.

Field Visit (August 1975)

Medieval Burials, Port nam Mairtír, Iona (Sites)

This small sandy bay, located on the E shore of Iona some 200m SW of the village pier, was the place at which, in the 18th century and probably long before, funeral parties landed on the island. A low turf-covered mound known as An Eala, situated immediately W of the public road at the head of the bay, was traditionally identified as a resting place for coffins. A late 18th-century report of the discovery of human burials in this area was confirmed in 1961 when pipe-laying operations at the S edge of the mound exposed two skeletons contained in long cists lined with small slabs of mica-schist. Numerous burials were revealed during excavations in 1969, which demonstrated that the mound was a natural feature created by blown sand after the area had ceased to be used for interment. At the period when it was in use for this purpose, the site probably appeared as a sand-filled gully some 2m in width between outcrops of rock. Most of the burials were concentrated in this area, underlying the s half of the mound, although some had been deposited in adjacent hollows within the surrounding rocks.

In addition to the two cists identified in 1961, three other long-cist burials were discovered in the lowest levels; most of the bodies, however, had been interred without coffins in a densely packed mass within the central gully. They were oriented with heads to the NW, the divergence from the E-W position no doubt being due to the configuration of the site. Although many of the skeletons had been greatly disturbed by subsequent burials, it was possible to identify at least forty individuals, with a marked preponderance of females whose average age at death was about forty. Of the eight females whose skeletal remains permitted a determination to be made, none had borne children. It was also noted that neither men nor women exhibited evidence of the hard-manual labour to be expected among a peasant community and none had died by violence. From these conclusions the burials may tentatively be associated with a community of celibate females, perhaps the local convent of Augustinian nuns, although that house allowed at least some burials within its precinct. Radiocarbon testing of selected samples of bone proved inconclusive as to date.

RCAHMS 1982, visited August 1975

Field Visit (April 1996 - May 1996)

Site recorded by AOC (Scotland) Ltd during an archaeological survey of the lands controlled by the National Trust for Scotland on Iona. This survey was conducted in late May and early April of 1996. The full report of this survey has been deposited with both the local SMR and the NMRS.

NM 2845 2387 Mound; burial ground

Sponsor: National Trust for Scotland

T Rees 1996

Field Visit (April 1996 - May 1996)

This consists of a large mound, 29.0m north to south by 13.0m cast to west, which has been cut into by the public roadway and the associated fence to the east. When excavated in 1969 by Reece c.forty inhumations in long cists as well as in pits thought to date from between the 6th century and the 10th centuries AD were found.

This mound was traditionally the spot where coffins brought ashore were rested while the funeral parties performed the "deisiol" three times round the mound before being transported up the 'Road of the Dead'.

(ION96 034)

Information from NTS (SCS) January 2016

Geophysical Survey (6 January 2013 - 11 January 2013)

NM 2846 2387 A gradiometry and resistance survey was undertaken, 6–11 January 2013, on two fields to the SW of the village on Iona. The first survey, immediately to the S of the nunnery, aimed to establish if structures associated with the nunnery were located in this area. The second survey was further S and covered an area of known burials at Martyr’s Bay, which are associated with An Eala, a pronounced mound, and Clad Nan Druineach, an 18th-century or possibly earlier graveyard, which lies in the S of the survey area. This work aimed to investigate the nature of the mound, and identify further burials, their limits, and any other remains.

The survey data from the field to the S of the nunnery was dominated by anomalies of presumed natural and modern origin. However, a cluster of linear trends in the resistance data and curvilinear anomalies in the gradiometer data may be of archaeological interest.

The resistance survey of the second area identified several anomalies. A curving high resistance anomaly suggests a kerb or revetment surrounding An Eala. Anomalies suggestive of possible burials/cists were detected in the S of the survey area, and these may indicate an extension to the graveyard. Several more ephemeral anomalies were also noted, including a possible structure.

Archive: Rose Geophysical Consultants

Funder: The National Trust for Scotland

Susan Ovenden, Rose Geophysical Consultants, 2013

(Source: DES)

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