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Islay, Port Na Seilich

Archaeological Feature(S) (Mesolithic), Artefact Scatter (Mesolithic), Croft (19th Century)-(20th Century)(Possible), Standing Stone (Period Unassigned), Township (Period Unassigned), Wall(S) (Period Unassigned)

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

Archaeology Notes

NR46NW 62 4304 6745

Port-na-seilich: This name applies to several ruins and the site of a hamlet, immediately N of Port an t-Seileich.

Name Book (Argyll), 1878

One unroofed building of this township is depicted on the OS 1st edition 6-inch map (Argyllshire 1867, sheet cxcviii), but it is not shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1981).

Information from RCAHMS (SAH) 2 November 1998


Excavation (2010)

NR 43035 67449 Site evaluation by test pitting, carried out by a team from the University of Reading in 2010, indicated the presence of a complex sequence of stratified archaeological deposits situated on a coastal terrace at Rubha Port an t-Seilich. Black organic-rich horizons exposed in the test pits were shown to contain dense concentrations of chipped stone artefacts similar in form to those ascribed to the Mesolithic narrow-blade industries found in western Scotland. Six radiocarbon dates obtained from single entity fragments of charred hazelnut shell (Beta-288425, 7010±50BP; BP; Beta-288424, 7540±40BP; Beta-288428, 7660±40BP; Beta-288423, 7820±40BP; Beta-288426, 8230±40BP and Beta-288427, 8240±40BP) indicate that inferred human activity at the site is amongst the earliest known for western Scotland, occurring between c9000–7700 cal BP. Excavation of a slot trench (1 x 27m) positioned across the centre of the terrace was undertaken in August 2013, with the principle aims of resolving the stratigraphic relationship of the organic-rich horizons and to obtain associated material suitable for radiocarbon dating. A multi-phase hearth-like structure, along with caches of elongated stone tools and raw materials, were encountered in association with the black organic-rich horizons containing Mesolithic cultural remains. Deposits were systematically sampled and wet sieved on-site, generating substantial quantities of chipped and coarse stone artefacts, charred plant remains and burnt bone.

Archive: Museum of Islay Life, Port Charlotte, Islay

Funder: University of Reading

Steven Mithen and Karen Wicks, University of Reading, 2013

(Source: DES)

Excavation (1 April 2017 - 15 April 2017)

NR 43035 67449 Following the evaluation undertaken in 2013 (DES 14, 51–2), an open area excavation was begun, 1–15 April 2017, to explore the Mesolithic settlement and underlying cultural and environmental horizons. A detailed topographic survey was undertaken of the terrace and the immediate surrounding area. This located a small structure close to the

shoreline; an exploratory excavation produced glazed pottery and glass suggesting this dated to the 19th and 20th centuries; this was interpreted as a crofter’s/fisherman’s hut and most likely related to cultivation on the terrace. A series of stone and turf walls were also surveyed, as was the location of a standing stone that appeared to have been deliberately

positioned. A trench, 10 x 5m, was located centrally on the terrace, bisected by the 2013 evaluation trench. Excavation removed the topsoil and underlying colluvium from the slope to the landward (western) side of the terrace to expose the upper most surface of the Mesolithic horizon. Artefacts were recovered by hand, principally consisting of chipped stone

artefacts and occasional elongated pebble tools. One piece of abraded ceramic was recovered with an incised geometric decoration, this most likely being Bronze Age in date. Glazed pottery and glass was recovered from the ploughsoil, similar to that from the crofter’s/fisherman’s hut.

Archive: Kilmartin Museum

Funder: University of Reading

Steven Mithen – University of Reading

(Source: DES, Volume 18)

Excavation (29 March 2018 - 12 April 2018)

NR 43035 67449 The excavation undertaken, 29 March –

12 April 2018, focused on a 4 x 5m trench centred over

the Mesolithic fireplace discovered in 2013. The surface

of the Mesolithic occupation was exposed and the upper

horizon excavated. This produced a large assemblage

of chipped stone, coarse stone artefacts, charcoal and

fragmented animal bone, all of which was calcined.

Analysis of these materials is currently underway.

Archive: Kilmartin Museum

Funder: University of Reading

Steven Mithen – University of Reading

(Source: DES, Volume 19)

Excavation (2019)

NR 43035 67449 Excavation in 2019 continued on the 4 x 5m trench centred over the Mesolithic fireplace. Chipped and coarse stone artefacts continued to be abundant, along with charcoal, charred hazelnut shell and calcined animal bone. A series of post- and stake-holes were located surrounding the NE side of the fire-place, suggesting at least a windbreak. To the north of these and external to the sheltered area, there was a 0.75m diameter sub-circular pit, the purpose of which remains unclear. A monolith sample through the sedimentary deposits was extracted for tephra analysis.

Archive: Kilmartin Museum

Funder: University of Reading

Steven Mithen – University of Reading

(Source: DES Vol 20)


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