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Sanday, Northskaill

Mound (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Sanday, Northskaill

Classification Mound (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 3503

Site Number HY64SE 12

NGR HY 6836 4442

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Cross And Burness
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY64SE 12 6836 4442.

Kitchen-midden deposits occur along the shore near the farm at Northskaill (HY 681 444) but no relics were observed.

RCAHMS 1946, visited 1928.

These kitchen-middens of limpet shells and animal bones were located to the area centred HY 6836 4442 where they occur along the shore for a distance of about 40.0m

Visited by OS (RL) 7 July 1970.

Incorporated in the stabilised dunes ridge, but now being eroded very rapidly, is an enormous kitchen-midden.

In section along the shore it extends at least 100m and is up to 3.5m thick. Deposit is remarkably uniform with no artifacts and no structures except some crude walling low down near the N extremity, but it is rich in sea-shells and animal bones. There is no direct dating evidence but there are several indications that it may be very early prehistoric. (Information from Orkney Archaeol Record No. 386)

RCAHMS 1980.


Field Visit (September 1979)

On surface this site appears as a mound among the dunes

ridge, from which it is indistinguishable. In the erosion

exposure however it is a solid mass of midden material up to 3.5m

thick. At its thickest the deposit is founded on clean sand,

just visible above the sand-drifts of the backshore, and there is

no apparent buried soil level intervening between the sand and

the deposit. N and S the base of the deposit dips downwards and

digging against the face at its S end failed to find the bottom -

it appears therefore that the bottom of this deposit may be at or

below level of MHWOST. The deposit consists of black sandy earth

interspersed with densely packed layers of limpet shells with

ocassional animal bones. At the N end of the visible exposure

many slabs, their positions disturbed by slumping, are present,

and in the extreme N horizontal slabs, possibly floor, are

resting on alternate layers of peat ash and dense black material

with the midden deposit beneath. Immediately N of here the

exposure is hidden by slumped masses of sand from above; the

extent of this deposit is certainly much more than 40m. A

careful search failed to produce any pottery and there is the

interesting possibility that the settlement belongs to an

aceramic period.

RGL Sep 79.

Orkney Smr Note (August 1981)

Studied and sampled by Dr D Davidson, Strathclyde Univ, Aug

1981; now known to be the farm mound of a vanished farm called


Information from Orkney SMR 1981

Artefact Recovery (July 1981)

A sherd of very coarse pottery was found in the extreme N

end of the exposure (where it is thin) by N Fojnt, Inspector Anc

Mons, Jul 81.

Field Visit (1999)

A substantial mound lies adjacent to the coast and has already been truncated by sea erosion. The current erosion face is cut through the highest point of the mound, exposing up to 5m of archaeological deposits in a 150m long section. The surviving portion of the mound slopes inland from the section face and is visible for some 60m. The exposed deposits are a well-stratified mix of organic soils with frequent inclusions of shell (limpet, cockle, winkle), bone, peatash and charcoal. In the section, a fragment of masonry, 1.2m long by 0.3m high, has the appearance of an outer wall face belonging to a structure only now beginning to erode. Of note, is the survival of fibrous organic material, which occurs in discrete lenses, and which appears to be a mixture of straw and dung; probably byre waste. In the scale and appearance of the mound and in the nature of the exposed deposits, this mound appears to be fairly typical of the Sanday farm mounds, but there are some indications that it may have early origins. Fragments of straight sided pottery, possibly of Bronze Age date, were recovered from deposits towards the base of the section. The remains are known to have been eroding since at least 1928; they are very vulnerable to further coastal erosion and the section is inherently unstable, being based on soft sand deposits. Ref.: RCAHMS (1946), #174; RCAHMS (1980), #81.

Moore & Wilson 1999.

Coastal Zone Assessment Survey, 1999


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