Issue: The worked quartz vein at Cnoc Dubh, Uig parish, Isles of Lewis, Western Isles:

Subtitle presentation and discussion of a small prehistoric quarry
Publication Type
Abstract In 2002, an examination was carried out of a small quartz vein at the knoll of Cnoc Dubh, a few hundred metres from the southern shores of Loch Ceann Hulabhig on the Isle of Lewis (NGR NB 2318 2998). The vein proved to have been worked in prehistoric time, defining it as a quarry, and it was measured, photographed and characterized. In the present paper, the Cnoc Dubh quartz quarry is presented in detail, to allow comparison with other lithic quarries, and it is attempted to define attributes diagnostic of prehistoric exploitation, and to schematically describe the 'mining operations' by which the quartz was procured. As part of this process,quartz quarrying is compared to the procurement of other lithic and stone raw materials, mainly drawing on research from Scandinavia, Australia and the USA, and the location of quartz quarries in relation to prehistoric settlements is discussed. The average distance between quartz sources and Neolithic - Bronze Age sites on Lewis is then used to discuss ownership of, and access to, prehistoric quartz sources, as well as the possible exchange of quartz.
Downloads
sair11.pdf (789 kB): Download
Author Torben Bjarke Ballin
Editor Colin R W Wallace
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Year of Publication 2004
Volume 11
ISBN 0 903903 80 6
Source DigitalBorn
Relations
Monograph Chapter Title Sort Order Both Arrows Access Type Author / Editor Page
Start/End Sort Order Up Arrow
Abstract
Torben Bjarke Ballin
0
In 2002, an examination was carried out of a small quartz vein at the knoll of Cnoc Dubh, a few hundred metres from the southern shores of Loch Ceann Hulabhig on the Isle of Lewis (NGR NB 2318 2998). The vein proved to have been worked in prehistoric times, defining it as a quarry, and it was measured, photographed and characterized. In the paper, the Cnoc Dubh quartz quarry is presented in detail, to allow comparison with other lithic quarries, and it is attempted to define attributes diagnostic of prehistoric exploitation, and to schematically describe the `mining operations' by which the quartz was procured. As part of this process, quartz quarrying is compared to the procurement of other lithic and stone raw materials, mainly drawing on research from overseas, and the location of quartz quarries in relation to prehistoric settlements is discussed. The average distance between quartz sources and Neolithic--Bronze Age sites on Lewis is then used to discuss ownership of, and access to, prehistoric quartz sources, as well as the possible exchange of quartz.
1
In 2002, an examination was carried out of a small quartz vein at the knoll of Cnoc Dubh, a few hundred metres from the southern shores of Loch Ceann Hulabhig on the Isle of Lewis (NGR NB 2318 2998). The vein proved to have been worked in prehistoric time, defining it as a quarry, and it was measured, photographed and characterized. In the present paper, the Cnoc Dubh quartz quarry is presented in detail, to allow comparison with other lithic quarries, and it is attempted to define attributes diagnostic of prehistoric exploitation, and to schematically describe the 'mining operations' by which the quartz was procured. As part of this process,quartz quarrying is compared to the procurement of other lithic and stone raw materials, mainly drawing on research from Scandinavia, Australia and the USA, and the location of quartz quarries in relation to prehistoric settlements is discussed. The average distance between quartz sources and Neolithic - Bronze Age sites on Lewis is then used to discuss ownership of, and access to, prehistoric quartz sources, as well as the possible exchange of quartz.
2 - 3
This section outlines the circumstances of discovery and the nature of the work carried out which forms part of a larger project on quartz technology in Scottish prehistory. Archaeologists have tended to focus on associated activity areas rather than the quarry itself in contrast to this paper. The project aims reflect this. As part of the work a small assemblage of probable Bronze Age lithics was recovered along with small amounts of Iron Age pottery.
4 - 5
The site is located in a rich ritual landscape whose focal point is the ritual complex of Calanais. The immediate surroundings of the quarry include a number of features such as stone structures and signs of agricultural activity. The vein and its associated activities cannot be dated more precisely than to the period before the abandonment of flaked lithic technology which on Lewis may have happened in the late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age.
6 - 7
The quartz vein consists entirely of a homogeneous white milky quartz and would, in prehistory, have presented a valuable source of lithic raw material. Though assumed to have been exposed to the weather for millennia the quartz is well preserved. As the worked part of the vein has a length of approximately 4-5 m, it is reasonable to assume that up to three cubic metres of quartz may have been quarried.
8 - 11
During the initial inspection of the vein, it soon became clear that it had been exploited by prehistoric people. The main revealing attributes are 'stepping', circular impact scars, and denticulated 'platform-edges'. These features and others are described and illustrated in detail.
12 - 13
It is likely that wooden scaffolding was attached. Scree would have been removed in a stage process, following the gradual exhaustion of quartz at higher levels. After acquiring a working edge, blocks and plates would have been detached to reveal layers which would be peeled back. This process would continue until the bottom of the vein was reached or it became impossible to detach more raw material due to the development of steps.
14 - 17
The date for exploitation of the quarry vein is broad - Neolithic to Bronze Age and possibly into the early Iron Age. Future examination of nearby structures might help refine this. The quarrying of quartz is compared to quarrying of other lithic raw materials. The relationship between quartz sources and settlements is considered along with ownership of/access to quartz sources and quartz exchange.
18
The author had intended to compare the site with others in Scotland, however, it would be difficult to separate the results of the recent impact of geologists and amateur knappers. Cnoc Dubh therefore has enhanced importance and it is hoped that the site will in some way be protected.
19
20 - 22
23