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Islay, Airigh Ghuaidhre

Artefact Scatter (Mesolithic), Organic Material(S) (Bone), Organic Material(S) (Mesolithic)

Site Name Islay, Airigh Ghuaidhre

Classification Artefact Scatter (Mesolithic), Organic Material(S) (Bone), Organic Material(S) (Mesolithic)

Alternative Name(s) Storakaig

Canmore ID 312113

Site Number NR36SE 72

NGR NR 3985 6270

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Killarow And Kilmeny
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll


Archaeological Evaluation (August 2010)

NR 3985 6270 In 2009 a scatter of chipped stone artefacts was discovered by Donald James McPhee and Susan Campbell on farmland S of the Airigh Ghuaidhre township c1km to the NW of Storakaig. The artefacts were eroding from a ditch section and within the up-throw from the ditch. The chipped stone assemblage contained numerous diagnostic Mesolithic artefacts such as platform cores with bladelet removals, including retouched and truncated blades. Highly fragmented bone and charred hazelnut shell were also found eroding from the sides of the ditch. A fragment of charred hazelnut shell was submitted for radiocarbon dating and

returned a date of 5350 +/- 50 BP (BETA 264734). This is the very end of the Mesolithic period and consequently the site may provide crucial information about the transition to the Neolithic. In August 2010 an archaeological evaluation of the site by test-pitting and excavation established the presence of a black organic-rich horizon from which several thousand chipped stone artefacts were collected, along with charred plant remains and highly fragmented bone.

Archive: Museum of Islay Life, Port Charlotte, Islay

Funder: University of Reading

Steven Mithen and Karen Wicks – University of Reading

Archaeological Evaluation (20 August 2011 - 3 September 2011)

A second season of fieldwork at the Mesolithic site at Storakaig took place between 20 August and 3 September 2011. Previous evaluation by test pitting and trial excavation (DES 2010, 42), had established the presence of a black organic-rich horizon that we interpret as a Mesolithic occupation horizon. Several thousand chipped stone artefacts were collected from the occupation horizon containing numerous diagnostic Mesolithic artefacts such as platform cores with bladelet removals including retouched and truncated blades, along with highly fragmented burnt bone and charred hazelnut shell. Fragments of burnt bone recovered during trial excavation were identified as foot bones belonging to a range of mammals including red deer, roe deer, wild boar and badger (analysis by C Ingrem). A radiocarbon date obtained from a fragment of charred hazelnut shell placed occupation at the site on the cusp of the Mesolithic–Neolithic transition (c5800 years ago), and the latter stages of occupation that resulted in the formation of the shell middens on Oronsay.

Detailed excavation resumed during 2011, this exposing a 5 x 15m area of the occupation horizon identified in 2010. A strategic programme of excavation that included a systematic sampling programme to recover stone artefacts, bone and plant material, to locate features, and select samples for geochemical analysis and radiocarbon dating was undertaken. The occupation deposit was shown to be more extensive than previously thought and to contain a high density of chipped stone artefacts and other finds including 30–35 probable coarse stone artefacts, along with several thousand fragments of highly fragmented burnt bone, charred hazelnut shell and charcoal. The finds and samples are now undergoing analysis at the University of Reading, a task that will be completed in the spring of 2012.

The project also undertook coring in 2010 that identified deep peat deposits at Loch Bharradail, c1km N of Storakaig (NR 393 635). An AMS radiocarbon date (Beta-288422) of 2020 ± 40 years BP (2110 to 1080 cal BP; 170 cal BC to cal AD 70; 95.4% probability), obtained from peat at the base of the sequence indicated that relatively rapid accumulation of sediment had occurred in the late Holocene peat levels. Funding was awarded from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland for further coring at Loch Bharradail, with the expectation of obtaining sediments extending to the Late-glacial period for detailed palaeoecological analysis; this providing an outstanding opportunity to undertake an integrated off-site and on-site study of the environment and economy spanning the Mesolithic to the Historic period in this region of western Scotland. The fieldwork resulted in the collection of three peat cores to provide high-resolution radiocarbon dated pollen, microscopic charcoal and tephra records that will be used to reconstruct a vegetation and landscape history for the Dunlossit region.

Archive: Museum of Islay Life

Funder: University of Reading and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

University of Reading 2011


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