Monday, January 2, 2012

New study of Western Isles' sand dune-buried artefacts

New research is being carried out on artefacts recovered from a site where evidence was found for every age from the Neolithic to the 20th Century.

Archaeology at Udal provides an "unbroken timeline" of occupation from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking, Medieval through to the 1900s.

Some of the evidence at the site on North Uist was preserved by wind-blown sand dunes.

Archaeologist Ian Crawford excavated Udal between 1963 and 1995.

The earliest Neolithic layers he revealed consisted of a line of stones with a large upright stone nicknamed the great auk stone because of its resemblance to the extinct seabird.

A deep shaft containing quartz pebbles which had been covered over with a whale's vertebrae was also uncovered.

From the Bronze Age, finds included a skeleton and from the Iron Age evidence of metal work.

Also from the Iron Age were the remains of homes dubbed Jelly Baby houses because the shape of them looked like the sweets.

Evidence of a Viking longhouse and later occupation during the 1600s through to the 18th and 19th centuries were also found.

From the early 20th Century was a saw pit for cutting up wrecked boats.

Crawford's collection is in the care of Western Isles local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The comhairle believes the site on the Grenitote peninsula to be one of the most important of its kind in the world.

It said the preservation of relics by being buried under sand was rare outside of the Middle East.

The comhairle has received £85,000 from the Museum Association's Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund to carry out the most complete post-excavation research to be done so far on the site and its finds.

Historic Scotland is assisting with the study.

Money from the grant will also be used to investigate the potential for an archaeological resource centre on North Uist.

Councillor Archie Campbell said the £85,000 grant would help islanders and the comhairle achieve a vision.

He said: "The local community has been waiting nearly 50 years to learn about what was discovered beneath the sand dunes and to see the finds for themselves.

"Long before the material was released by Ian Crawford the community made it clear that their wish was for the collections to be returned to the islands on a permanent basis.

"This grant will go towards achieving that vision by funding a feasibility study into the potential of the Udal collections as the basis for an archaeological resource centre and the impact it would have on the islands' economy."

Deborah Anderson, regional archaeologist with the comhairle, welcomed the funding towards better understanding the collection.

She said: "This is an assemblage which is not just important to the Outer Hebrides but which is essential to help date other collections from the west coast of Scotland and Ireland.

"The local community will no doubt be thrilled that we have received this grant, and we are one step closer to understanding what was discovered beneath the sand dunes."

BBC News. 2012. "New study of Western Isles' sand dune-buried artefacts". BBC News. Posted: December 6 2011. Available online:

1 comment:

annh said...

I dont know if you are who I want this message to go to. I just watched on tv an older program of Timeline. they were digging in the Hebrides and I think Barr was mentioned. they found two round houses and a wheelhouse and lots of grave sites talking iron age and bronze age they found a whale bone in the wheel house. pottery decorated using ends of small bones and they tried to re-create a kiln using peat to burn as there was no wood available where the children from the local school placed some pottery in to it. Why I am placing a comment is regarding the lady that was burried on her right side, a comment was made that women were buried on the right side and Men on their left. and they were summising the reason..I think I know the reason....They would have been more aware of how things happened around them back then ...not as many distractions as there are these days.....check with men and women today and you will find most women sleep on their right side and most men sleep on their left side...this would have been happening back then as well. we all have a favorite side to be on. all my family do this and I have worked as a nurse and unless theere was a reason the favorite side wasnt used due to illness I have seen most men sleep on their left side and most women sleep on their right side. So I would presume when buried you would place a person as they prefered to sleep (for the long sleep of death) hope you take this into account. Regards Ann Heaneay from Moe Victoria Australia please pass my comment to the relevant group if it isnt your group.