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Papa Westray, Cott

Settlement (Prehistoric)

Site Name Papa Westray, Cott

Classification Settlement (Prehistoric)

Alternative Name(s) Shorehouse

Canmore ID 2866

Site Number HY45SE 25

NGR HY 4988 5295

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

HY45SE 25 4988 5295.

At HY 4988 5295 is an amorphous turf-covered mound, with traces of dry-stone structures, and a midden of shells and animal bones exposed in the shore immediately to the E.

Visited by OS, 1 July 1970.

This blunt, low headland had uneven rising ground towards the edge of the banks, which are steep and grass grown. Over a length of 80m along the shore line, sea erosion has exposed fragments of stone walling; that at the point of the headland is buried in earth, while further N it is in sand. There is little midden material.

RCAHMS 1983, visited June 1982.


Orkney Smr Note (June 1982)

This shoreline is a steep grass-grown bank. Occasional

slumps of the turf cover where underwashed by the sea, have

exposed heavy stone structures, but very little midden material.

The stone walling at the point, under the mound, are in earth,

those further N, towards Cott, are in sand. The exposures extend

along 80m of shoreline. The mound described by OS is a general

indeterminate rise of the land surface towards the shoreline;

although here undoubtedly due to archaeological causes, it is

difficult to distinguish it from the backshore dunes ridge which

extends along this coast.

Information from Orkney SMR (RGL) Jun 82.

Field Visit (1998)

Structural remains and anthropogenic soil deposits are visible in a coastal exposure that extends for over 100m. The section stands up tp 3.5m high; in most places the basal archaeological deposits are obscured by a storm beach. The densest concentration of structural remains occurs towards the centre of the section. Here several walls are visible, forming at least two structural phases. Wall ends protrude at 90 degrees to the section and measure up to 0.6m wide by 1.3m or more in height. A cursory inspection suggests that at least four structures are present, none of which appear particularly substantial or defensive. Some of the structures appear to have been revetted into middens. The midden deposits contain inclusions of shell, bird, mammal and fish bone, peat ash, charcoal and burnt stone; some of the bone is unburnt and articulated. The latest structural phase lies beneath a very substantial farm mound. This, in turn, lies beneath a farmstead of 18th-20th C date. Further structural remains survive in front of the section also, but they have been partially covered by the storm beach and are not readily identifiable.

The extensive archaeological remains in this area apparently represent a settlement of some duration. Of the several parts of the buildings currently visible, none is obviously of Iron Age type and it is possible that they predate this period. The occupation and midden deposits appear to be well preserved, to the extent that articulated bone is readily visible in the section. The overburden of farm mound material has helped, no doubt, to preserve the site and may have assisted in the preservation of organic materials. This site requires urgent assesmanr to determine, at the minimum, its nature, extent and date. It is very vulnerable to further losses and therefore should be prioritised for further work.

Moore and Wilson, 1998

Coastal Zone Assessment Survey

Field Visit (13 May 2015)


As described, this site is actively eroding and unstable. Several walls and substantial midden deposits are visible in the section. The structures currently visible do not appear to be Iron Age, but given the site location, and the type of remains visible, it seems more likely that these represent later activity, possibly of Norse date.

There has been recent dumping in a small area at the south end of the section. Towards the north of the section, two structural phases are clearly separated by a layer of windblown sand.

Visited by Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk (SCHARP) 13 May 2015


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