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Lewis, Bhaltos, Cnip

Cemetery (Viking), Cist (Viking)

Site Name Lewis, Bhaltos, Cnip

Classification Cemetery (Viking), Cist (Viking)

Alternative Name(s) Valtos; Kneep; Traigh Na Berie; Traigh Na Beirgh

Canmore ID 4007

Site Number NB03NE 15

NGR NB 0994 3639

NGR Description Centred on NB 0994 3639

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Western Isles
  • Parish Uig
  • Former Region Western Isles Islands Area
  • Former District Western Isles
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NB03NE 15 centred on 0994 3639

See also NB13NW 13, Viking burials at NB 100 365.

The excavation of a Bronze Age cist burial took place during fieldwork concentrated on the adjacent putative Norse burials, which lay c10m to its NW.

Excavation revealed an orthostatic, slab-lined, sub-rectangular cist with maximal internal dimensions of 1.2m from E to W by 0.9m from N to S. This contained a well-preserved crouched adult inhumation. The skeleton was enveloped within a distinct stained sand, deriving from the decay of the soft body parts and/or textiles. An intact undecorated vessel lying beside the skull was the only gravegood present.

An arc of stones immediately above the orthostats of the cist represents the basal course of a corbelled vault above the burial chamber. This suggests that the cist must have been situated within a now eroded mound. The cist had been inserted through the existing ground surface, a small patch of which was preserved on the N side of the cist. Elsewhere all sand deposits outside the cist are almost entirely scoured. A rough arc of boulders around 1.5m from the S and W of the cist may have delimited the extent of the mound.

Archive and publication reports of fieldwork results are currently in preparation.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

CFA 1992.

In August 1994 two further Viking Age graves were excavated beside the three adult burials recorded in 1992 (supra). Further erosion within a deflation hollow on the SE slopes of Cnip headland had revealed human bones in an eroding sand face less than 1m W of the 1992 excavations. A bone pin, two amber beads and a small quantity of human bone were recovered by a representative of Historic Scotland during an initial site inspection.

Subsequent excavation revealed a substantially eroded grave, comprising a rounded scoop filled by light brown sand, and containing an infant orientated NW-SE. Only the skull and upper left torso of the skeleton were preserved in situ. A single amber bead was recovered from beneath the jaw, suggesting that it had formed part of a necklace.

During cleaning of areas of exposed ground surface contemporary with the Viking Age cemetery a second grave was located adjacent to that detailed above. Upon excavation, it contained an undisturbed flexed neonate inhumation orientated approximately E-W. A small lump of iron, as yet unidentified, was located beneath the rear of the skull. The burial lay within a rounded scoop measuring 0.66m E-W by 0.48m by up to 0.20m deep and containing a light brown sand fill. As with the other burial, no surface marking of the grave was evident.

Cleaning of exposed areas of ground surface on a terrace up to 3.8m wide revealed no evidence for further graves within c 9m SW and c 6m NE of the excavated grave group. The burials excavated in 1992 and 1994 therefore appear to have formed a discrete cluster, possibly reflecting familial or kinship relationships. The grave group lay on a level patch of ground, and it is likely that the graves were deliberately sited on a terrace on the hillside. No evidence for any formal boundary to the cluster of graves was identified.

Three other eroding features were examined during fieldwork. A cluster of stones c 1.5m across, located c 1m N of a multi-phase Bronze Age cairn excavated by J Close-Brooks in 1976 and 1978, had been identified as a possible cist roof. No structure was revealed within the stones; two pits at least 1m in diameter were partly revealed in the trench immediately to the E of this. The stones lay on a Bronze Age cultivated soil previously identified by Close-Brooks, indicating that the features were broadly contemporary with the adjacent cairn.

A disturbed cobble hearth was identified c 15m NE of the calm. An irregular patch of dark grey sand lay adjacent to the hearth. Two iron objects, possibly tacks or rivets, a lump of iron slag, and several lumps of charcoal were recovered from this deposit.

Approximately 40m SW of the Viking Age grave group an alignment of four stones orientated N-S, exposed within an erosion face over 1m high, was investigated. The stones lay within a layer of pale yellow sand immediately beneath the present turf horizon; the stones overlay a sequence of sand deposits. The date and function of the feature is unclear. A fifth stone, possibly part of a slumped upper course, partly overlay one of the stones, but no deposits abutted the stone alignment.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

CFA 1994.


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