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Harris, Horgabost

Bank (Earthwork)(S) (Period Unassigned), Ditch(S) (Period Unassigned), Shell Midden(S) (Period Unassigned), Structure(S) (Iron Age)(Possible)

Site Name Harris, Horgabost

Classification Bank (Earthwork)(S) (Period Unassigned), Ditch(S) (Period Unassigned), Shell Midden(S) (Period Unassigned), Structure(S) (Iron Age)(Possible)

Alternative Name(s) Isle Of Harris Survey

Canmore ID 283986

Site Number NG09NW 23

NGR NG 044 968

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/283986

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

Administrative Areas

  • Council Western Isles
  • Parish Harris
  • Former Region Western Isles Islands Area
  • Former District Western Isles
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Archaeology Notes

NG09NW 23 NG 044 968

Survey; trial excavation. A 3-week field project in June and July 2005 was intended to complement the previous season of fieldwork (DES 2004, 135) in consolidating survey in three topographically distinctive parts of Harris: mountain, machair, and the area around Rodel at the S of the island.

In the first of these, detailed planning of a multi-period landscape was undertaken at Glen Meavig (NB 098 055), with additional fieldwalking in the area around Huisinis (NA 998 145). Exploratory excavation also took place within a shieling site in Langadale (NB 146 121).

In the machair, fieldwalking was extended along the coast from Horgabost to Scarista. Of particular interest was the discovery of a sand-buried structure at Borve (NG 0281 9447), which will be a focus of attention next season. Further geophysical survey at Horgabost (NG 044 968) was followed by trial excavation and likely later prehistoric structures and boundaries were identified.

At Rodel (NG 046 832), trial trenches were put through several turf/ earthen features but these did not appear to be structural, although sherds of medieval pottery were recovered. A section through the wall of a blackhouse provided useful structural information.

Archive to be deposited in Western Isles SMR and NMRS.

Sponsors: Leader+, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Western Isles Enterprise, Harris Development Ltd, University of

Birmingham.

J R Hunter 2005

Activities

Geophysical Survey (July 2009)

NG 04350 96818 A team from the University of Birmingham spent two weeks investigating areas of dune during June and July 2009. The dunes are on the machair fringe on the W coast of the island and are currently used for summer grazing. The objectives of the exercise were:

• To demonstrate the existence of substantial prehistoric settlement on Harris.

• To test the effectiveness of geophysical techniques in local dune systems.

• To evaluate the likely structural integrity of any buried remains through trial excavation.

• To characterise any remains for type and date.

Work took place in two locations: (a) by geophysical survey across an enclosure at the northern tip of the headland, and (b) by geophysical survey and trial excavation in the dunes at the eastern part of the headland at a short distance from the road.

At the former a total area of 160 x 80m was covered using a multiplex resistivity system. This confirmed the presence of banks, ditches and associated features including possible structures. At the latter the same system was used to survey two blocks covering areas of 120 x 80m and 60 x 40m respectively, both showing zones of high resistance readings indicative of structural remains. A twin-probe system was also used in an

adjacent area 100 x 40m and gave similar indications. As a result an excavation trench 7 x 5m was opened to explore the nature of these remains further. The trench lay on the tip of a mound some 2.5m in height. Excavation revealed a complex of walling lines, presumably reflecting the latest phases in a substantially rebuilt and adapted series of structural sequences heavily subsumed by sand. Excavation continued for approximately one week after which segments of three recognisable structures could be determined.

All three structures are likely to belong to the later Iron Age and had become infilled with aeolian sand. Features included walling complexes showing a variety of constructional types, the remains of a stone-sided tank with grey clay luting and shell middens. Soil stabilisation lines were also evident together with post-abandonment phases containing animal bone, shell midden and antler. Further work will continue in 2010.

Archive: Finds – Western Isles Museum Service. Paper – Birmingham

Funder: University of Birmingham

Kevin Colls and John Hunter – University of Birmingham

Excavation (June 2010 - July 2010)

NG 04350 96818

A team from the University of Birmingham spent three weeks investigating areas of dune during June and July 2010. The dunes are on the machair fringe on the W coast of the island and are currently used only for summer grazing. The objectives of the 2010 season were:

• to further our understanding of this substantial prehistoric settlement on Harris

• to continue geophysical techniques in local dune systems to establish the extent of the remains

• to evaluate the likely structural integrity of any buried remains through trial excavation

• to further characterise any remains for type and date An enhanced outreach programme, including school visits and lectures, student activities, class site visits and hands on exercises was also undertaken.

During the 2010 season the excavation of 2009 was partly reopened and extended to cover a 7.5 x 5m area. The trench lay on the tip of a 2.5m high mound. Previous excavation had revealed a small complex of structural remains; this reflected the latest phases in a substantially rebuilt and adapted series of structural sequences heavily subsumed by sand. Components of three recognisable structures had been

determined during 2009 and this year the extended area was focused on Structure 1, the most complete of the three.

The area opened for excavation was extended substantially to expose the whole of the building. This proved to be effectively circular, c4.8m in diameter and

standing (in part) to c1.3m high. The local geology on Harris does not lend itself readily to the production of laminar building materials. Although many of the walling

stones were appropriately faced, those on the uppermost courses were much cruder and presumably reflect a lower need for structural stability against the eaves. Construction consisted of an inner single face of stones packed against

the sand. The walling appeared partially corbelled, but it was not clear whether the internal batter of the stones was a deliberate corbelling effect or a result of the pressure of sand from the outside. The inconsistency of the batter suggested the latter. Sections cut through the walling in two places illustrated the absence of any backing material (eg turf) and it was assumed that the structure had been cut into an existing dune. The basal courses had been constructed directly on to sand and no foundations were evident. No obvious post supports were identified, although

two possible contenders (F209 and F210) were positioned at the edge of the walling. Their shallow profile suggests that they were probablyt post-pad impressions. A central hearth was identified towards the centre of the structure.

A further programme of geophysical surveying mapped the extent of the settlement and topographic survey compared this evidence with the current dune topography. The settlement is likely to date to the later Iron Age and

had become infilled with aeolian sand.

Archive: Western Isles Museum Service (finds), Birmingham

(paper archive)

Funder: University of Birmingham, Harris Development Ltd and

Leader Plus

K Colls and J Hunter 2010

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