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Oban, Carding Mill Bay

Cist (Period Unassigned), Shell Midden (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Oban, Carding Mill Bay

Classification Cist (Period Unassigned), Shell Midden (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 22947

Site Number NM82NW 20

NGR NM 847 294

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/22947

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilmore And Kilbride
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NM82NW 20 847 294

Carding Mill Bay is a small bay on the SE side of the Sound of Kerrera about half a mile from Oban along the minor shore road which leads to Gallanach. The topography is dominated by conglomerate cl;iffs some 50 - 60m high with only a narrow strip of land between their base and the sea. Underlying the conglomerate, and visible at tide level, are steeply inclined bands of sandstone. At the foot of the cliffs a varying amount of scree has accumulated and it was the removal of this by mechanical digger in 1988, in order to provide space for house building, that revealed vestigial traces of archaeological deposits. Unfortunately by the time these came to attention a considerable quantity of material had been removed and presumably used for infill of the house site and a parking area in front.

The first indication of the possible presence of archaeological materials was an apparently large accumulation of shells. Closer inspection revealed a human mandible (juvenile) adhering to some material on the cliff face and some human bone lying on the surface of undisturbed material.

The main deposits lay at the base of the cliff and within a V-shaped fissure, the most substantial and undisturbed material being within the confines of this. Some other slight traces of material remained adhering to the main cliff face and also to the sides of the fissure. Within the narrowest part of the fissure, which could not have been reached by the mechanical digger, was material consisting of tightly packed stones and earth extending upwards to about 4m, the top of this probably being approximately the same height as the scree before removal.

The human bone lay on the surface of the undisturbed material, somewhat within the fissure and on top of and between a quantity of thin sandstone slabs. These slabs could not have fallen from the conglomerate cliff above and had most likely been imported from the underlying sandstone on the shoreline. This suggested a possible cist burial which had been disturbed. Such disturbance was probably not recent as the stones showed no sign of fresh fracture. The bones did not represent a complete skeleton; in particular only a small fragment of skull being present. The position of some bones indicated a degree of articulation. A small flint, possibly of Bronze Age type was recovered from immediately beneath the bones. The later discovery of a single rim sherd of pottery, though not stratified within the same layer but from an adjacent layer to where it may have slipped, may be related.

Slightly below the level of the cist stones and apparently unrelated to them, was further human bone with a number of slightly articulated vertebrae and it seems possible that this may represent an earlier inhumation.

Beneath the skeletal remains was a fairly compact deposit of mainly limpet shells mixed with charcoal stained soil. Two distinct layers of deposition were discernible separated by a thin layer of highly crushed shell. From within the deposits a large number of bone artefacts was recovered, these being mostly fragments of antler varying in size from about 2cm to 6.5cm in length, rounded on one or sometimes both ends, commonly referred to as 'limpet scoops'. A number of quartz fragments, possibly worked, were also present. Very good charcoal samples were retrieved from each of the layers. At the base of the deposits an obnlong box-shaped portion of dark soil 56cm x 22cm x 14cm was present. The shell midden material was tightly packed against both sides of this but there was no shell beneath and the feature must therefore be earlier. It seems probable that it may represent the 'ghost' remains of a decayed balk of timber which appeared to have been artificially squared off.

It was not possible to remove the build up of stones from the narrowest part of the fissure until the most of the midden material had been dealt with. These layers contained very little significant material except for some human bone including a mandible and four pieces of vertebra in definite articulation. No other skull material was present and no long bones.

The final stages of excavation involved the removal of material which had at places remained adhering to the face of the cliff face and which it had been undesirable to remove earlier in order to avoid contamination of earlier layers with later material. From this the only significant material was a small quantity of human bone and teeth. It was from this area that the initial find of a human mandible emanated it suggests a possible disturbed burial.

The material from the site are being processed by SDD Historical Buildings and Monuments Archaeological Operations and Conservation Department but no results are yet to hand.

It should be noted that within a few metres of the present site there are indications of further shell midden remains.

K D Connock 1988; 1990.

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