Issue: STAC

Subtitle The Severe Terrain Archaeological Campaign '“ investigation of stack sites of the Isle of Lewis 2003'“2005
Publication Type
Abstract The STAC (Severe Terrain Archaeological Campaign) project conducted topographic and archaeological surveys of sea stacks and other cliff-bound coastal sites around the Isle of Lewis over three annual field seasons from 2003-2005. The project made use of a specialised access system called 'Industrial Rope Access', which proved to be both a safe and a practical way of achieving archaeological research in such places. The first part of this report details the formation and methods of the STAC project, and discusses some relevant geographical issues. The second part presents the results of the eleven site surveys. One of these sites, Dunasbroc, was thought to be particularly vulnerable to erosion and was subject to small-scale excavation, the results of which form the third part of the report.
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Author Ian McHardy
Chris S Barrowman
Mary McLeod
Mary MacLeod
Editor Beverley Ballin-Smith
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Year of Publication 2009
Volume 36
ISBN 0 903903 67 7
Source DigitalBorn
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Monograph Chapter Title Sort Order Both Arrows Access Type Author / Editor Page
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Abstract
Ian McHardy
Chris S Barrowman
Mary McLeod
1 - 163
The STAC (Severe Terrain Archaeological Campaign) project conducted topographic and archaeological surveys of sea stacks and other cliff-bound coastal sites around the Isle of Lewis over three annual field seasons from 2003'“2005. The project made use of a specialised access system called 'Industrial Rope Access', which proved to be both a safe and a practical way of achieving archaeological research in such places. The first part of this report details the formation and methods of the STAC project, and discusses some relevant geographical issues. The second part presents the results of the eleven site surveys. One of these sites, Dunasbroc, was thought to be particularly vulnerable to erosion and was subject to small-scale excavation, the results of which form the third part of the report.
1
3
The STAC (Severe Terrain Archaeological Campaign) project conducted topographic and archaeological surveys of sea stacks and other cliff-bound coastal sites around the Isle of Lewis over three annual field seasons from 2003-2005. The project made use of a specialised access system called 'Industrial Rope Access', which proved to be both a safe and a practical way of achieving archaeological research in such places. The first part of this report details the formation and methods of the STAC project, and discusses some relevant geographical issues. The second part presents the results of the eleven site surveys. One of these sites, Dunasbroc, was thought to be particularly vulnerable to erosion and was subject to small-scale excavation, the results of which form the third part of the report.
4
This chapter presents the background to the project, previous work and team structure.
5 - 9
The term 'stack' is difficult to define, but usually refers to an isolated pinnacle of rock entirely surrounded by the sea at high tide. If a summit has a larger diameter than its height, then it is an island. Many of the sites in this project are islands or promontories, despite being described as stacks by their place names. A brief account of geological formation is followed by a table which lists all the known sites.
10 - 12
This chapter provides a brief summary of the research design and outlines the criteria used to select sites for further study.
10 - 12
This chapter outlines the methodologies for rope access, topographic survey and fieldwork.
15
The results of the survey are presented clockwise from the south-west. All place name spellings are in Gaelic as produced by the Ordnance Survey in the current map edition.
16 - 20
This chapter presents a physical description of the site, location, extent of erosion. method of access and details of previous work. The survey identified two buildings and a perimeter wall which also formed a small enclosed courtyard. A possible path led to the lower reaches of the stack. An isolated pit contained a large sherd of possible Neolithic pottery. It is possible that continued erosion will destroy the site within twenty years.
21 - 34
This chapter presents a physical description, details of location, extent of erosion, method of access to the stack and an account of previous work. A linear and large drystone rectangular wall or blockhouse enclosed at least six structures on top of the stack. These structures consisted of curving lines of turf-covered wall footings, supported by revetment walls at the cliff edge. There are no exposed and eroding soil layers as the plateau of the stack is above the reach of most wave action. The deterioration is caused by the undermining of structural remains which collapse as the underlying rock gives way.
35 - 38
This chapter presents a physical description, details of location, extent of erosion, method of access and previous work. Although Stac na Cuibhig has been the site of human activity culminating in a structure there is not enough evidence to adequately support any further interpretation.
39 - 46
This chapter presents details of location, physical description of the stack, extent of erosion, method of access and previous work. There are no obvious structures on the stack, but archaeological deposits were visible in a series of eroding scars. These scars were scattered through many little ramps and terraces on the steepest landward face. Close examination showed the terraces to be supported by walls and revetments often running along the contours of the stack and making use of natural outcrops. A total of 48 sherds including decorated Neolithic examples were recovered along with 5 stone tools, butchered bone and charcoal. A trial excavation is described elsewhere in this report.
47 - 56
This chapter present details of physical description, location, extent of erosion, method of access and previous work. The site is of great interest and importance to the settlement record of Ness. The fact that it has been examined in some detail by many others over the past 40 years adds historical significance to the site. The recovery of large amounts of material demonstrated that there are archaeological remains still worthy of investigation on the site. It seems likely that a late Iron Age/Norse building is present.
57 - 62
This chapter presents details of physical description, location, extent of erosion, method of access and previous work. Five structures and an enclosing wall were identified in the survey. There is no evidence to support the assertion that there is an early Christian presence on the stack. Pottery of Neolithic date was recovered during previous work.
63 - 67
This chapter presents details of physical description, location, extent of erosion, method of access and previous work. There were a total of 13 structures. Most of these were small, oval hollows or depressions in the ground with only faint traces of walling remaining. The largest structure was a rectangular stone building located in the centre of the island. A stone and turf perimeter wall could be followed around the south, south-east and north sides of the island.
68 - 70
This chapter provides details of physical description, location, extent of erosion and method of access. No previous work has been carried out. The survey identified five structures. The site is likely to be destroyed by erosion in the next decade.
71 - 76
A brief physical description is followed by details of location, method of access and previous work. The dun did not have any structures on its summit, but there were a series of structures on the lower grassy slopes to the east or seaward side of the site.
77 - 81
The site was as described by the RCAHMS, with one building taking up the whole of the summit. This building had three compartments, and an access track wound steeply up the west face of the stack leading straight to the entrance of the main compartment. This is one of the few possible medieval castle in the isle of Lewis.
77 - 81
A possible access route and a small section of drystone walling were identified along with two pottery sherds. Little can be said about the structural evidence. It is clear, however, that there was once a much larger site here which has suffered significant erosion due to the soft conglomerate rock of the stack.
86
The surveys have highlighted a number of academic and practical issues crucial to our understanding and management of the monuments. Of first importance is the fact that, with care and even limited resources, such sites can be safely accessed, and can therefore be subject to more detailed research. Both survey and excavation on such sites are practical propositions, and there is therefore little excuse for the neglect of them as a class of monument. Although these monuments are located on the interface between land and sea, and are therefore, as a class, particularly vulnerable to erosion, it cannot be assumed that they are all actively eroding. Nor can assumptions be made about which aspects or areas of even the eroding sites are most at risk. Each monument must be subject to individual assessment and monitoring in order to determine which aspects, if any, of its archaeology are under threat or in the process of destruction.
87
89
Dunasbroc was chosen for further investigation because it was threatened by further erosion, and had already produced both Neolithic and Iron Age pottery, but it was relatively easy to access. Excavation aims and methodology are outlined in this section.
90 - 96
This chapter presents a detailed archaeological description of the remains found in two excavated trenches along with artefactual and environmental evidence. A series of radiocarbon dates were obtained.
97 - 99
There is unambiguous evidence from the two small excavation areas on the stack for intensive Neolithic use of the site in the form of ceramics, lithics and a truncated posthole. The Iron Age deposits yielded only a small number of diagnostic finds though radiocarbon dates provide a date range of 210-50 cl BC.
100 - 101
The excavation at Dunasbroc has provided a tantalising glimpse into a site, re-used over time with, as yet, no excavated parallels elsewhere in Britain. This relatively small site has raised more questions than it has answered, but has also confirmed the thesis that coastal stack and promontory sites have a much longer and more diverse history than has previously been thought.
102
103 - 106
107
109 - 111
109 - 111
112
112
Ann MacSween
113 - 124
Ann MacSween
113 - 124
Specialist report on the pottery from all the sites investigated.
Chris S Barrowman
125 - 135
Chris S Barrowman
125 - 134
Specialist report on 96 pieces of earlier Neolithic date from Dunasbroc.
Chris S Barrowman
135 - 139
Specialist report on 28 stone, all of which are pebbles from local stone sources.
Chris S Barrowman
136 - 139
Susan Ramsey
140 - 145
Evidence was recovered for the utilisation of a diverse range of wood fuel types on the stack, although it is probable that none of these wood types was growing on the stack itself. The wood could have been collected from woodland on the mainland or in the form of driftwood from nearby shores. The spruce/larch charcoal from the site must have been collected as driftwood as these trees are not native to Scotland. Evidence was also found for the utilisation of cereals, particularly six-row barley, either for food or as some form of ritual deposit. There is also some indication that a wicker structure or object may have been burned.
Susan Ramsay
140 - 145
Catherine Smith
146 - 147
Specialist report on a small and fragmentary assemblage.
Catherine Smith
146 - 147
Jo McKenzie
148 - 153
The samples provide an interesting and somewhat unexpected insight into both the construction of the platform feature and the possible circumstances of its use.
Jo McKenzie
148 - 153