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Westray, Bay Of Skaill

Settlement (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Westray, Bay Of Skaill

Classification Settlement (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Hahouse; The Picts' House; Evertaft

Canmore ID 2858

Site Number HY45SE 18

NGR HY 4554 5124

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Westray
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY45SE 18 4554 5124.

Traces of a built structure, locally known as 'The Picts' House' occur on the crest of a high sandy bank close to the shore of the Bay of Skaill and c1 /2 mile NE of Hahouse. The structure was opened a few years before 1928, and found to consist of a roughly circular chamber and a long narrow passage full of clean sand. No mention was made of finds during the excavation but when the site was visited, a small fragment of pottery and an indefinite piece of bronze pierced for a pin or rivet was picked up from a kitchen midden of the usual shells and food refuse which had been exposed by heavy winter seas.

RCAHMS 1946, visited 29 June 1928.

Exposed for a length of c.30m in the face of an eroded sand dune at HY 4554 5124 are traces of dry-stone walling and midden material, indicating the unintelligible remains of an early occupation site.

Visited by OS, 28 June 1970.

The ridge of dunes forming the shoreline of Bay of Skaill at a point 400m ENE of Hahouse, is being eroded by the sea, which has created a sand cliff 3 m high. Near the top of this can be seen some fragmentary drystone walls and shell-midden deposits. As the lower party of the bank is concealed behind slumped turf, and some stonework which is protruding from this turf may have slipped from higher up, the thickness of the deposit is not ascertainable.

RCAHMS 1983, visited June 1983.

HY 455 512 The coastal settlement mound of Evertaft was recorded by EDM survey and section drawing. It has suffered considerable erosion over the last four years and now survives as a strip of interleaved middens, drystone structures and sand layers running 60m along the coast and c 25m inland. Its maximum thickness is c 4.5m. A radiocarbon date on cereal grain from low in the profile has yielded an assay of AD 131-419 (AA-39134, 1750?55 bp cal 2s). Samples were recovered for ecofactual analysis and further dating using OSL and radiocarbon. Twenty test pits excavated in the immediate hinterland of the site revealed little surviving evidence for associated anthropogenic deposits. However, this survey was hampered by a thick blanket of wind-blown sand which may obscure deeply buried features. The single exception was five courses of stonework associated with other loose rubble at HY 454 512. This might be the structure previously noted in the NMRS at HY 4539 5119, recorded in 1970 but not relocated in 1981.

Sponsor: University of York.

J Barrett, T O'Connor and S Dobson 2000


Field Visit (June 1981)

A stone 6in long and worn by rubbing, shaped like a saddle-quern, is said to have been found in a midden deposit to ENE (of OR 680). [R1]

Sand cliff some 3m high from bottom to top, near top of which are some fragmentary drystone walls and a thin shell-midden deposit. The lower half of the cliff is concealed by slumped turf and some stonework visible among this turf near the foor of the cliff, may have slipped down from higher up; so the overall thickness of the deposit cannot now be ascertained.

Information from Orkney SMR (RGL) Jun 81.

Field Visit (1998)

Structural remains and shell midden deposits are exposed in a sand-cliff to the fore of a ridge of dunes.These remains are visible over a distance of some 60m and are up to 3m thick. They are situated in the upper portion of the dunes, some 4m above the level of the beach. The remains are covered by deposits of wind blown sand and topsoil. At least two seperate structural levels are represented in the section. They are seperated by an anthropogenic soil that contains shell and fragments of bone. A drystone wall protrudes end-on to the section face towards the southern end of the exposure. It stands up to 0.3m high and appears to be curved. The site is being eroded by the sea and the wind and has been further damaged by rabbits and nesting fulmars. It is known locally as the 'Pict's House'. It was opened at some time before 1928, revealing a circular chamber and a long passage. It has been eroding since at least 1928, when RCAHMS surveyors noted the presence of middens, a pot-sherd and a fragment of bronze. The site cannot be characterised by the deposits currently visible or from previous records. The level of the threat is such that any further work, whether assessment or salvage excavation, should be carried out without delay.

Moore and Wilson, 1998

Coastal Zone Assessment Survey


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