Issue: Camas Daraich:

Subtitle a Mesolithic site at the Point of Sleat, Skye
Publication Type
Abstract The archaeological site of Camas Daraich (on the peninsula of the Point of Sleat, in south-west Skye) was revealed in November 1999 when stone tools were discovered in the upcast from a newly bulldozed track. Excavation took place in May 2000, directed by the authors and under the auspices of Historic Scotland, the Centre for Field Archaeology and the Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh. The excavations were small-scale and brief, but they demonstrated the survival of stratified features (scoops and a possible hearth) as well as an assemblage of nearly 5000 flaked lithics, comprising both tools and debris. There was no organic preservation, with the exception of burnt hazelnut shell. The composition of the lithic assemblage suggested that the excavated site was Mesolithic and this was confirmed by the radiocarbon determinations, which place it securely in the mid 7th millennium BC. Surface material suggested that there was evidence for more recent prehistoric (stone-tool-using) activity in the vicinity. Although the archaeological work at Camas Daraich was limited, the site is interesting for several reasons. First, it is one of a growing number of sites in the area with early dates for human settlement (until the mid 1980s dated Mesolithic evidence was lacking in the north of Scotland). Second, the lithic raw materials in use at Camas Daraich connect it firmly to a wider network of sites and provide conclusive evidence for human mobility. Third, further Mesolithic material is likely to survive at Camas Daraich so that the future well-being of the site is an important issue. Fourth, though there was no organic preservation, used pumice was recovered and this is rare on Mesolithic sites. Fifth, the lithics include both narrow-blade tools and conventionally broader/larger pieces and the relationship between these two traditions is still poorly understood in Scottish archaeology. Camas Daraich suggests that they may not be as clearly separated as previously thought.
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Author Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Karen Hardy
Editor Colin R W Wallace
Debra Barrie
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Other Person/Org Ann Clarke (Author contributing)
Michael Cressey (Author contributing)
Kevin J Edwards (Author contributing)
Anthony Newton (Author contributing)
Year of Publication 2004
Volume 12
ISBN 0 903903 82 2
Source DigitalBorn
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Abstract
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Karen Hardy
0
The archaeological site of Camas Daraich (on the peninsula of the Point of Sleat, in south-west Skye) was revealed in November 1999 when stone tools were discovered in the upcast from a newly bulldozed track. Excavation took place in May 2000, directed by the authors and under the auspices of Historic Scotland, the Centre for Field Archaeology and the Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh. The excavations were small-scale and brief, but they demonstrated the survival of stratified features (scoops and a possible hearth) as well as an assemblage of nearly 5000 flaked lithics, comprising both tools and debris. There was no organic preservation, with the exception of burnt hazelnut shell. The composition of the lithic assemblage suggested that the excavated site was Mesolithic and this was confirmed by the radiocarbon determinations, which place it securely in the mid 7th millennium BC. Surface material suggested that there was evidence for more recent prehistoric (stone-tool-using) activity in the vicinity. Although the archaeological work at Camas Daraich was limited, the site is interesting for several reasons. First, it is one of a growing number of sites in the area with early dates for human settlement (until the mid 1980s dated Mesolithic evidence was lacking in the north of Scotland). Second, the lithic raw materials in use at Camas Daraich connect it firmly to a wider network of sites and provide conclusive evidence for human mobility. Third, further Mesolithic material is likely to survive at Camas Daraich so that the future well-being of the site is an important issue. Fourth, though there was no organic preservation, used pumice was recovered and this is rare on Mesolithic sites. Fifth, the lithics include both narrow-blade tools and conventionally broader/larger pieces and the relationship between these two traditions is still poorly understood in Scottish archaeology. Camas Daraich suggests that they may not be as clearly separated as previously thought.
1
The archaeological site of Camas Daraich (on the peninsula of the Point of Sleat, in south-west Skye) was revealed in November 1999 when stone tools were discovered in the upcast from a newly bulldozed track. Excavation took place in May 2000, directed by the authors and under the auspices of Historic Scotland, the Centre for Field Archaeology and the Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh. The excavations were small-scale and brief, but they demonstrated the survival of stratified features (scoops and a possible hearth) as well as an assemblage of nearly 5000 flaked lithics, comprising both tools and debris. There was no organic preservation, with the exception of burnt hazelnut shell. The composition of the lithic assemblage suggested that the excavated site was Mesolithic and this was confirmed by the radiocarbon determinations, which place it securely in the mid 7th millennium BC. Surface material suggested that there was evidence for more recent prehistoric (stone-tool-using) activity in the vicinity. Although the archaeological work at Camas Daraich was limited, the site is interesting for several reasons. First, it is one of a growing number of sites in the area with early dates for human settlement (until the mid 1980s dated Mesolithic evidence was lacking in the north of Scotland). Second, the lithic raw materials in use at Camas Daraich connect it firmly to a wider network of sites and provide conclusive evidence for human mobility. Third, further Mesolithic material is likely to survive at Camas Daraich so that the future well-being of the site is an important issue. Fourth, though there was no organic preservation, used pumice was recovered and this is rare on Mesolithic sites. Fifth, the lithics include both narrow-blade tools and conventionally broader/larger pieces and the relationship between these two traditions is still poorly understood in Scottish archaeology. Camas Daraich suggests that they may not be as clearly separated as previously thought.
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Karen Hardy
2 - 5
An outline of the circumstances of discovery, methodology and a brief summary of the finds. Despite the disturbed nature of the site and the brief duration of the archaeological work, Camas Daraich is interesting because it falls within a geographical area of ongoing Mesolithic research and provides an important link between the island of Rhum and the Inner Sound to the north.
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Karen Hardy
6 - 10
Details of site location and information available prior to the commencement of work. A total of 2908 pieces of flaked stone had been recovered and some of the material indicated a potentially early Mesolithic date. For this reason a decision was made to excavate.
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Karen Hardy
11 - 18
A detailed account of the excavation methodology is followed by an archaeological description. Trench 1 had been very disturbed by bulldozing for the new trackway. Four squares within the trench were excavated. Two cultural contexts contained flaked lithics and charcoal as well as several stones. Some of the stones may have outlined part of a hearth. Two scoops were cut into the raised beach. Four text pits contained lithics and three soil pits were dug for specialist analyses. Lithics were also found at two further locations.
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
19 - 37
An assemblage of 4913 flaked lithic artefacts was recovered. These comprise a variety of pieces relating to both the manufacture and use of a range of stone tools. The knappers used a range of raw materials, including both very local stone and stone from slightly further afield. Most of the materials '“ chalcedonic silicas, Rhum bloodstone and quartz '“ were brought to site as nodules ready for working, but baked mudstone seems to have come to Camas Daraich mainly as ready-made tools. Knapping techniques included both platform and bipolar knapping. Though much of the assemblage would be at home on any earlier prehistoric site, there are many pieces indicative of a Mesolithic date. These include a range of narrow-blade microliths and the blades.
Karen Hardy
38 - 45
A total of 62 lithics were examined microscopically to determine whether any traces of use wear of evidence or post-depositional movement were apparent. Artefacts comprised blades, flakes, chunks, cores and microliths in a variety of raw materials. Sixty two had traces and this number included unretouched pieces. There are suggestions of spatial diversity across the site: a range of tools were employed in a range of activities.
Ann Clarke
46
Seven stone tools were recovered. They comprised four flakes probably relating to breakage of hammerstones and other cobble tools, a bevelled pebble and two fragments of beach cobbles, one of which was probably used as a pot boiler.
Anthony Newton
47 - 49
Four pieces of pumice were found. It has been shown that the pumice was erupted from the Katla volcanic system some time before 6800 BC and after the end of the last glaciation. This rough dating is supported by radiocarbon dating from the archaeological context in which the pumice lay. One of the pieces appears to have been worked.
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Karen Hardy
50
Other artefacts included recent glazed ceramic, metal and glass from the ploughsoil and tiny fragments of burnt bone from the surface of the track.
Michael Cressey
Kevin J Edwards
51 - 57
The site was well placed for both fresh water and shelter as well as wider resources. Given the constraints of the data it would be unwise to attempt any detailed interpretation of the Mesolithic environment. With regard to the pollen data, comment will be limited to saying that all taxa are common indicators of open ground habitats. The only exception is the most frequently represented pollen grain on site, that of Corylus avellana-type (cf. hazel), of which 78 grains were found, as well as some macrofossil material. Hazel was an abundant member of Skye's 8th millennium BP flora. The hazelnut shells from the excavation were thus probably collected locally.
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Karen Hardy
58
Four dates place the site securely in the first half of the Mesolithic, at a time when there is increasing archaeological evidence for settlement in western Scotland.
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Karen Hardy
59 - 62
This chapter considers the significance of the site's location which offered shelter and varied resources. The evidence points to human activity in the mid 7th millennium BC. The nature of the Scottish Mesolithic in this period and the role of the site are considered in the context of the wider Mesolithic world.
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Karen Hardy
63
The excavations demonstrated that stratified Mesolithic deposits survive at Camas Daraich. Much of the site lies relatively undisturbed under the ploughsoil across the croft, and there is a high possibility that later deposits also occur. A small amount of archaeological material is threated by natural erosion along the course of the new track and all is vulnerable to any further development in the croft area. It is to be hoped that Historic Scotland can implement measures to minimize further destruction and monitor any disturbance that might take place.
64
65 - 68
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
69 - 71
72 - 73
74
Karen Hardy
75 - 79
Karen Hardy
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Kevin J Edwards
Kevin J Edwards
Michael Cressey
Michael Cressey
Michael Cressey
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
Andrew A S Newton
Ann Clarke
Karen Hardy
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
provided in the form of a link to a downloadable Microsoft Access file