Issue: Excavation of a Bronze Age wicker container, Gearraidh na h'Aibhne, Isle of Lewis

Publication Type
Abstract An archaeological excavation was carried out at Gearraidh na h'Aibhne near Calanais on the Isle of Lewis by Northamptonshire Archaeology, working for Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) as part of the Historic Scotland Human Remains Call Off Contract. The site, initially interpreted as a cist potentially containing a bog body, was identified during annual peat cutting. Excavation demonstrated that the feature was in fact an oval pit containing a quantity of hazel branches, capped with a number of flat slabs of Lewisian Gneiss. Several similar stones had been placed in the base of the feature, overlying more hazel branches.<br /><br />The observation of several branches placed vertically at the edges of the cut suggests that the wood remains may have originally constituted a wicker structure or basket. Further evidence of anthropogenic activity was identified in the form of bent and/or twisted hazel rods and cut marks on a larger piece of wood. Growth-ring analysis of the hazel pieces identified two distinct age clusters: a large group of pieces between five and seven years old and a smaller group between ten and 13 years old, indicating the hazel branches had been deliberately selected for size. Analysis of preserved botanical macrofossil remains indicated that heather type stems and Sphagnum moss might have been incorporated or deposited into the structure. Two radiocarbon dates of 1080-830 BC (SUERC-2086) and 1000-830 BC (SUERC-2087) at 2-sigma probability were obtained from two discrete samples of hazel, suggesting the structure was constructed and deposited during the Late Bronze Age.
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Author Paul R J Duffy
Editor Debra Barrie
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Other Person/Org Christopher Burgess (Author contributing)
Mark Holmes (Author contributing)
Jennifer J Miller (Author contributing)
Susan Ramsey (Author contributing)
Year of Publication 2006
Volume 19
ISBN 0 903903 88 1
Source DigitalBorn
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Abstract
1 - 2
An archaeological excavation was carried out at Gearraidh na h'Aibhne near Calanais on the Isle of Lewis by Northamptonshire Archaeology, working for Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) as part of the Historic Scotland Human Remains Call Off Contract. The site, initially interpreted as a cist potentially containing a bog body, was identified during annual peat cutting. Excavation demonstrated that the feature was in fact an oval pit containing a quantity of hazel branches, capped with a number of flat slabs of Lewisian Gneiss. Several similar stones had been placed in the base of the feature, overlying more hazel branches. The observation of several branches placed vertically at the edges of the cut suggests that the wood remains may have originally constituted a wicker structure or basket. Further evidence of anthropogenic activity was identified in the form of bent and/or twisted hazel rods and cut marks on a larger piece of wood. Growth-ring analysis of the hazel pieces identified two distinct age clusters: a large group of pieces between five and seven years old and a smaller group between ten and 13 years old, indicating the hazel branches had been deliberately selected for size. Analysis of preserved botanical macrofossil remains indicated that heather type stems and Sphagnum moss might have been incorporated or deposited into the structure. Two radiocarbon dates of 1080-830 BC (SUERC-2086) and 1000-830 BC (SUERC-2087) at 2-sigma probability were obtained from two discrete samples of hazel, suggesting the structure was constructed and deposited during the Late Bronze Age.
Paul R J Duffy
3
Details of site location and the circumstances behind the investigation are presented.
4 - 6
This section provides details of the methodology employed and an archaeological description.
Christopher Burgess
Mark Holmes
4 - 6
Jennifer J Miller
Susan Ramsey
4 - 6
The wood assemblage comprised 58 hazel and 1 willow fragment. Organic remains included heather, cross-leafed heath leafy shoots, grass and sedge.
Paul R J Duffy
7
Two radiocarbon dates place the site in the later Bronze Age.
Jennifer J Miller
Susan Ramsay
7 - 10
Paul R J Duffy
8 - 14
The results suggest either that hazel was more available than has previously been suggested, or that a scarce resource was deliberately utilised as part of the wicker construction. An alternative possibility is that the hazel did not originate on the island at all, but was imported either as unworked lengths, or as a completed artefact. Further palaeobotanical study on the island may help to understand this issue more fully.
Paul R J Duffy
Jennifer J Miller
Susan Ramsay
12 - 14
14
16
Paul R J Duffy
An archaeological excavation was carried out at Gearraidh na h'Aibhne near Calanais on the Isle of Lewis by Northamptonshire Archaeology. The site, initially interpreted as a cist potentially containing a bog body, was identified during annual peat cutting. Excavation demonstrated that the feature was in fact an oval pit containing a quantity of hazel branches, capped with a number of flat slabs of Lewisian Gneiss. Several similar stones had been placed in the base of the feature, overlying more hazel branches. The observation of several branches placed vertically at the edges of the cut suggests that the wood remains may have originally constituted a wicker structure or basket. Further evidence of anthropogenic activity was identified in the form of bent and/or twisted hazel rods and cut marks on a larger piece of wood. Growth-ring analysis of the hazel pieces identified two distinct age clusters: a large group of pieces between five and seven years old and a smaller group between ten and 13 years old, indicating the hazel branches had been deliberately selected for size. Analysis of preserved botanical macrofossil remains indicated that heather type stems and Sphagnum moss might have been incorporated or deposited into the structure. Two radiocarbon dates of 1080--830 BC (SUERC-2086) and 1000--830 BC (SUERC-2087) at 2-sigma probability were obtained from two discrete samples of hazel, suggesting the structure was constructed and deposited during the Late Bronze Age.