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Abhainn Bhaile Mheadhonaich, broch and standing stone 145m south east of An Cairidh

A Scheduled Monument in Eilean á Chèo, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.3941 / 57°23'38"N

Longitude: -6.4798 / 6°28'47"W

OS Eastings: 130951

OS Northings: 842613

OS Grid: NG309426

Mapcode National: GBR B9D5.LRH

Mapcode Global: WGY6Z.FDMY

Entry Name: Abhainn Bhaile Mheadhonaich, broch and standing stone 145m SE of An Cairidh

Scheduled Date: 6 February 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13664

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: standing stone

Location: Bracadale

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Eilean á Chèo

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

The monument is a broch, a complex and substantial stone-built roundhouse dating to the Iron Age (between 600 BC and AD 400) and a nearby standing stone dating to the late Neolithic or Bronze Age (between 3000 and 800 BC). The broch is visible as a roughly circular, grass covered mound with associated terracing. To its southwest is a single standing stone. The monument is located approximately 50m above sea level on a rocky outcrop overlooking Loch Caroy.

The broch is on the summit of a natural rock outcrop bounded by steep, exposed rock to the east and by two terraces to the southwest. The walls of the broch are visible as a circular bank, mainly turf-covered, with an external diameter of around 17.5m.  The bank measures up to 1.8m high and almost 4m in wide at the base, and stretches of the inner and outer wall faces are visible. At the northeast is an entrance passage up to 1.2m wide. A substantial upright slab on the south wall of the entrance passage is probably a door check. Inside the broch are remains of a structure, apparently circular, that is probably of later date. Immediately west of the broch is a level terrace with the turf covered footings of a sub-rectangular structure. Located below and southwest of this terrace is a further terraced area; the two terraces give a stepped profile to the southwest of the hill. A single standing stone stands 45m west-southwest of the broch wall. It measures approximately 1m high and 0.8m wide and is angled towards the east. Several stones around the foot of the standing stone are partially exposed and are likely to be contemporary packing stones.  

The scheduled area is in two parts: one part is irregular on plan and includes the broch and the other area is circular on plan with a diameter of 4m centred on the standing stone. The scheduled area includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

 

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument includes a broch, visible as mostly turf-covered circular bank set on a rocky outcrop, and a standing stone. Two terraces lie to the southwest of the broch, the upper containing the remains of a structure. Overall the site survives in good condition with no record of an excavation at the site.

The monument has high potential to support future archaeological research. Visible features include a door check, wall facing stones and outer terraces, and it is probable that additional buried features also exist. By analogy with other excavated brochs there is potential for buried remains of cells and stairs within the thickness of the walls, internal stone partitions, hearths and water tanks within the broch, and potential for the buried remains of outbuildings outside. Many of these features can provide information about broch architecture and construction methods. Additionally, the broch outworks and any associated structures are likely to contain deposits rich in occupation debris, artefacts and palaeoenvironmental evidence that can tell us about how people lived, their trade and exchange contacts, and their social status.

Brochs are typically thought to date from the mid first millennium BC through to the early part of the first millennium AD. There are few precise scientific dates for brochs on Skye and their dating has traditionally been based on typological studies of artefacts recovered from broch sites. Here, the presence of the external terraces and the possible later insertion of a circular structure inside the broch indicate this site may have had a complex development sequence.

Broch towers are primarily seen as a specific, specialised development of complex Atlantic roundhouses. They were large complex structures that could have accommodated either an extended family or a small community. While there would have been a social hierarchy within this community, the construction of these elaborate towers is often understood in terms of elite settlement. Other interpretations have stressed their likely role as fortified or defensive sites, possibly serving a community across a wider area. Brochs are complex structures likely to have had numerous purposes and a complex role in prehistoric society.

The earlier standing stone offers further significant interest as it demonstrates much earlier use of this prominent site in the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, and suggests buried evidence for other early remains may be present. Elsewhere, excavation shows that standing stones could be the focus for groups of cremation burials in urns (such as at Carlinwell, Angus, scheduled monument reference SM4315, Canmore ID 32362).

Contextual Characteristics

Brochs are a widespread class of monument across northern Scotland with notable concentrations in Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the northwest Highlands. This example is one of a local group on the Isle of Skye. Most brochs on Skye are located by, or on, the coast and this monument fits well into that typology. Dun Feorlig (scheduled monument reference SM3494 and Canmore ID 10864) is located directly across Loch Caroy from Abhainn Bhaile Mheadhonaich, 1km west southwest. The two brochs may have been contemporary or there could be a succession between them. This broch is also close to several other brochs including Dun Arkaig (Canmore ID 11113) 4km east and Dun Beag (Scheduled Monument SM90325 and Canmore ID 11062) 5km south-southeast. There is therefore potential for comparative study on a local as well as national scale to better understand the function of such monuments, their interrelationship and the significance of their placing within the landscape, in particular in relation to our understanding of Iron Age social hierarchy, changing settlement patterns and systems of inheritance. Such a study could yield particularly interesting results when analysing the relationship between this broch and Dun Feorlig across Loch Caroy due to their close proximity and clear intervisibility.

The broch is adjoined on the south and west by the earthwork remains of a pre-improvement settlement. This is not included in the scheduling, but there is potential to compare the remains of the broch with evidence from a later settlement in the immediate vicinity, which may inform an understanding of changing material culture and economy.

The broch lies on the northwest edge of Loch Caroy, around 300m from the shore and in a prominent position on a rocky outcrop. There are open views across the loch. Many broch towers were deliberately sited to be focal points in the landscape, and this example would have been clearly visible, especially from the loch and the opposite peninsula.

The standing stone also lies close to the lochside and its focus appears to be across the loch. Less than 1km north of the monument, there is a possible stone circle at Balmeanach (Canmore ID 351986). Standing stones were often sited to take advantage of routeways, views and intervisibility with other monuments. There is potential to study this stone and its relationship to other prehistoric monuments in the landscape.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics which significantly contribute to the site's cultural significance.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the use and development of standing stones and brochs on Skye. It includes a good example of a broch that retains the base of the wall and doorway and has high potential for additional buried remains, including occupation debris, artefacts and ecofacts. The broch is a prominent feature in the landscape and adds to our understanding of the siting of brochs. This in turn can help our understanding of settlement patterns and social structure during the Iron Age on Skye. This potential and interest is enhanced by the proximity of other brochs, particularly Dun Feorlig on the opposite shore of Loch Caroy. The standing stone is a well-preserved example of its type. The immediate area around the stone may preserve additional buried archaeological remains that can help us understand more about its function and role in prehistoric society. It can enhance our understanding of social and ceremonial activities in prehistoric times, and the beliefs of the people that built and used these sites. The proximity of this standing stone to the broch adds to the significance of the monument and indicates use of the site over a long time period. The loss of the monument would diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the use of standing stones and brochs on Skye, and the nature of its prehistoric society.

 

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 11114 (accessed on 01/11/2016).

The Highland Council HER reference is MHG 5069 (accessed on 01/11/2016).

Feachem, R, 1963, A guide to prehistoric Scotland. London.

MacKie, E W, 2007, The Roundhouses, Brochs and Wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c. 700 BC - AD 500: architecture and material culture. Part 2 The Northern and Southern Mainland and the Western Islands. BAR, vol 444. Oxford.

RCAHMS, 1928, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Ninth report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the Outer Hebrides, Skye and the Small Isles. London.

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/11114/


HER/SMR Reference

The Highland Council HER reference is MHG 5069

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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