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Roundhouse (Prehistoric)

Site Name Connagill

Classification Roundhouse (Prehistoric)

Canmore ID 351655

Site Number NC95NW 3

NGR NC 90600 59800

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Farr
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Sutherland
  • Former County Sutherland


Excavation (13 January 2014 - 16 April 2014)

NC 90600 59800 The full excavation of a roundhouse of probable Bronze Age date was carried out, 13 January – 16 April 2014, in advance of the construction of an access road to a new electricity substation. The roundhouse is located at the N end of Strath Halladale, an area rich in archaeological features, but this is the first to be investigated by excavation.

Although one part of the structure had been robbed to win stone for the adjacent early modern farmstead buildings and enclosures, the surviving walling was substantial, complex and possibly unique among roundhouses so far excavated in the N of Scotland. The first phase wall, consisting of two rings of upright slabs with an earth core, was overlaid by a massive broad earth bank, stabilised on the exterior by steeply battered rough courses of stones set into the earth, while some form of wicker screen or mat appears to have been laid on the interior face of the bank. This wicker and its supporting stakes subsequently burned, all round the interior, although there is no evidence for a roof fire. The charred remains of the wicker were preserved under a stone inner wall face, and identification of the wood species will provide valuable information about the environment.

Internal deposits and features show several phases of continuous occupation. An initial central fire pit was filled and covered with paving, a primary hearth slab was then located next to the fire pit. These features were then covered with more paving and hearths, some constructed and some just areas of burning and ash. The position of post settings suggest some initial small central structure, followed by a ring of roof supports and outer rings of stakes. The doorway was modified at least once, and a small outer cell added. The quantities of ceramics found in this cell suggest either storage or ceramic production. While radiocarbon dates are not yet

available, the roundhouse appears to share many features with roundhouses in the Strath of Kildonan, excavated by Fairhurst and Taylor in the 1960s. Radiocarbon dates there indicated an Iron Age date, but the assemblage of ceramics here at Connagill would appear to be Bronze Age. This would suggest a long tradition of building and use of the buildings.

No metal objects or evidence for smelting were recovered at Connagill, again suggesting an Early Bronze Age date, nor did any unburned organic material survive. A large number of ceramic fragments and a broken but complete pot were recovered. The greater part of this assemblage is undecorated and of similar fabric, but several individual sherds of different

fabrics may provide evidence of trade or exchange, while a range of rim types and decorative or functional features such as cordons may give a chronology. Stone tools included exotic material such as cannel coal and pumice. Caithness sandstone was used for pot lids and examples of fine polished sandstone, while tool types included, as well as the usual range of hammer stones and polishers, two perforated tools, possibly mace heads, although exact parallels have not yet been found.

Archive: Highland HER and RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Scottish and Southern Energy

Catherine Dagg, Janet Hooper, John Wombell, Anne Coombs, Allan Mackenzie, Martha Kerr, Rona Bush and Athini Mikietyn

(Source: DES)


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