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Unst, Easting, Sandwick

Building (Period Unassigned), Hearth (Period Unassigned), Inhumation (Period Unassigned), Midden (Period Unassigned), Pottery Scatter (Period Unassigned), Anvil (Possible)

Site Name Unst, Easting, Sandwick

Classification Building (Period Unassigned), Hearth (Period Unassigned), Inhumation (Period Unassigned), Midden (Period Unassigned), Pottery Scatter (Period Unassigned), Anvil (Possible)

Canmore ID 293793

Site Number HP60SW 71

NGR HP 61950 02170

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/293793

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

  • Council Shetland Islands
  • Parish Unst
  • Former Region Shetland Islands Area
  • Former District Shetland
  • Former County Shetland

Archaeology Notes

HP60SW 71 6195 0217

HP 6195 0217 Further excavation was carried out in August 2006 of an eroding cellular building, producing more information about its sequence of use. The southern cell appears to have had corbelled, clay-bonded stone walls, with a roughly paved floor and a stone and clay hearth set against an orthostatic partition wall. A thick dump of hearth waste and pot sherds had built up inside the cell, and a steatite tuyere fragment was found in it. Midden was dumped into the cell before its roof collapsed. The central and northern cells had been modified with the addition of partition walls and paved and clay floors. Two painted pebbles were recovered from the floor levels. The central cell contained a large anvil or chopping block and several stone tools. Thick deposits of what may be rubble and burnt deposits lie beneath the central and northern cells (visible in the eroded section), suggesting they were built upon earlier occupation levels or the collapsed remains of an earlier building. Radiocarbon dating of an inhumation burial cut through windblown sands sealing the site shows the building was finally abandoned before AD 130-390 (SUERC-10745).

Archive to be deposited in NMRS. Report lodged with Shetland Amenity Trust SMR and NMRS.

Sponsor: The SCAPE Trust/Historic Scotland/Heritage Lottery Fund.

O Lelong and I Shearer, 2006.

Activities

Excavation (August 2006)

HP 6195 0217 Further excavation was carried out in August 2006 of an eroding cellular building, producing more information about its sequence of use. The southern cell appears to have had corbelled, clay-bonded stone walls, with a roughly paved floor and a stone and clay hearth set against an orthostatic partition wall. A thick dump of hearth waste and pot sherds had built up inside the cell, and a steatite tuyere fragment was found in it. Midden was dumped into the cell before its roof collapsed. The central and northern cells had been modified with the addition of partition walls and paved and clay floors. Two painted pebbles were recovered from the floor levels. The central cell contained a large anvil or chopping block and several stone tools. Thick deposits of what may be rubble and burnt deposits lie beneath the central and northern cells (visible in the eroded section), suggesting they were built upon earlier occupation levels or the collapsed remains of an earlier building. Radiocarbon dating of an inhumation burial cut through windblown sands sealing the site shows the building was finally abandoned before AD 130-390 (SUERC-10745).

Archive to be deposited in NMRS. Report lodged with Shetland Amenity Trust SMR and NMRS.

Sponsor: The SCAPE Trust/Historic Scotland/Heritage Lottery Fund.

O Lelong and I Shearer 2006

Excavation (June 2007 - July 2007)

HP 6195 0217 Unst Archaeology Group has adopted the site under the Council for Scottish Archaeology’s Adopt-a-Monument scheme. During June and July 2007 following excavation and rebuilding of the cellular Iron Age structures in their original position improvements were made to the access track down to the beach and to parking facilities at Hannigarth. The site will be maintained for visitors and erosion monitored and an interpretive panel and leaflet will be produced. Exposure to the open sea together with severe winter weather and a sinking coastline means that future loss is inevitable.

Funder: Shetland Islands Council.

Excavation (28 May 2007 - 22 June 2007)

HP 6195 0217 The final season of excavation at Sandwick between 28 May–22 June 2007 followed on from two seasons of excavation in 2005 and 2006 and an assessment of the eroded coastal edge of the site in 2004, all designed to rescue information from the site before its destruction and to train Shorewatch/Shetland’s Past volunteers in the investigation and recording of eroding coastal sites.

The excavations in 2005 and 2006 revealed the remains of a partly truncated building of later prehistoric date, made up of several stone-built cells that contained the remains of hearths, paved and clay floors, structural alterations and midden deposits. An inhumation burial, discovered in 2005, had been cut through windblown sand that sealed the building after its abandonment; it was radiocarbon dated to AD 130–390 (SUERC-10745).

The 2007 excavation season consisted of limited investigation in structure 1 and removal of parts of structures 2, 3 and 4 to investigate deposits underlying them. Three phases of hearth were discovered in Structure 1. The work also uncovered the well-preserved remains of an earlier building (structure 5), with a

paved floor, hearth, and thick hearth waste and midden deposits. The upper part of this cell’s upstanding wall had been used much later to build another cell, Structure 1. Over 1,000 finds were recovered in this season, including hundreds of sherds of pottery, a blue glass bead, fragments of shale bangle, worked and unworked animal bone, fish bone, marine shells, pumice and stone tools, and approximately 2,350 find numbers were

allocated over the three seasons of excavation.

At the close of the 2007 excavation season, the site was partially reconstructed and consolidated and access by visitors was improved under the Council for Scottish Archaeology’s Adopt-a-Monument scheme.

Archive to be deposited with RCAHMS. Report deposited with Shetland Amenity Trust SMR, Historic Scotland and RCAHMS.

Funder: The SCAPE Trust, Historic Scotland, Russell Trust, Hunter Archaeological Trust, GUARD.

Field Visit (26 April 2010)

This building is situated immediately above the rocky foreshore on the S side of Sandwick bay, about 40m E of the mouth of an unnamed burn. It was originally concealed beneath a mound of windblown sand measuring about 12m from NW to SE by 5m transversely, but has suffered severely from erosion on the seaward side. It was investigated by the Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division on behalf of the Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion Trust, in partnership with volunteers from Shorewatch and Shetland's Past between 2004-7, since when it has been partially restored and consolidated. The building was found to be a cellular structure associated with hearth, midden and occupation deposits dating to the Iron Age. It contained four compartments, the best preserved of which was on the E. This had a complex stratigraphy, but its walls had been constructed with othostats interdigitated with panels of rubble which had been bonded with yellow clay and there was a central hearth. The other cells were more simply constructed, but again presented a complex stratigraphy. Earlier deposits that pre-dated the building were located below the visible structures, while a later inhumation situated about 2m S of the mound yielded a radiocarbon date from a rib bone of AD 130-390.

Visited by RCAHMS (GLB) 26 April 2010.

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