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Papa Stour, Biggings

House (Norse)

Site Name Papa Stour, Biggings

Classification House (Norse)

Alternative Name(s) Biggins; The Biggings; Da Biggings

Canmore ID 250

Site Number HU16SE 17

NGR HU 176 605

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/250

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

  • Council Shetland Islands
  • Parish Walls And Sandness
  • Former Region Shetland Islands Area
  • Former District Shetland
  • Former County Shetland

Archaeology Notes

HU16SE 17 176 605.

Excavation showed the abandoned croft-house of the 'Gorl' (in the yard at "Da Biggings") to be lying on top of a Norse house site. Structures indicate a building of substance.Finds include coarse black pottery comparable with Hamilton's types 2 and 3 at Jarlshof, soapstone objects, wood and textile.

B E Crawford 1978.

Excavation continued, revealing an area of pine flooring with possible evidence of upright benching or a bench feature. The site continues to produce coarse black pottery, as well as a few glazed pieces, plenty of soapstone fragments and artefacts, and also more textile.

B E Crawford 1979.

Three radio-carbon dates are available from the earlier levels of the Norse House Site which was excavated in its central area down to natural sand in 1982. The earliest, GU 1604, from wood charcoal in a hearth, is 1245+/- 65bp. The other two, from wood charcoal and heather charcoal are 910 +/- 65 bp and 930 +/- 65 bp respectively (GU-1603, GU -1604; all uncalibrated). These two, suggesting an early 11th century date, fit well with other dateable evidence from the site. The main feature of the season's excavation was a large, square fire pit (0.6m square and 0.4m deep) with a paved base. It was probably part of a larger hearth structure which unfortunately extended right right underneath the wall of the 'Gorl' (19th century croft house building).

B E Crawford 1983.

A fifth and final season's work on the above site involved first, the partial demolition of the 'Gorl' and then the excavation of the area underneath the walls of the demolished house in order to link up with previous excavations outside and inside it. More fragments of the wooden floor were found which had given a 14c. date of 960 +- 55 in 1984 (GU-1775). Excavation of the large central hearth was not completed, but areas on E, S and N sides of the Norse house were excavated to underlying sand deposits. Although these overlie what appears to be bedrock they may not be natural, as originally thought, for preliminary evidence from the pollen analysis indicates that thorough mixing has taken place.

B E Crawford 1987.

A final tidying-up excavation took place in May 1990. A large fire-pit was re-examined in the centre of the Norse house, below the wooden floor: this will be consolidated to form a feature of the site for viewing by visitors to the island. An exploratory trench was opened up to the north of the Norse house. This contained fragmentary structures of post-medieval date including a worked sandstone block found lining a drain; it appears to have been a segmental arch stone from a 17th or 18th century gateway. A small remaining unexcavated area within the Norse house was examined and another large pit containing carbonised fill was discovered, similar to many others found all over the site. It appeared to curve round a hearth and contained soapstone and one piece of possible continental grey ware.

Sponsors: Society of Antiquaries (London), Russell Trust, Carnegie Trust, University of St Andrews.

B Crawford and B Smith 1990.

HU 177 604 In order to inform the preparation of the site for public presentation, a previously unexcavated part of it - at the E end of the skáli, the building lying between the eldhus and the stofa - was investigated in June and July 2003. In addition to the excavation of the medieval contexts of hearth complexes and paved floors, traces of degraded wooden flooring and dumped hearth material were examined. The continuation of pit-like features, encountered in previous seasons, were also fully explored. These contained thick deposits of a mixture of burnt seaweed and some heather. It is possible that these represent the bedding trenches and pits for wooden walls and posts.

The presence of continental redware sherds from the upper levels of the excavation indicates a date in the 17th century. Accompanying the ceramics were well-preserved textiles of woven material.

Report lodged with Shetland SMR and the NMRS.

B Ballin Smith and B E Crawford 2003

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