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Geirisclett, settlement 700m north east of Loch Beag nan Eun

A Scheduled Monument in Beinn na Foghla agus Uibhist a Tuath, Na h-Eileanan Siar

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.6517 / 57°39'6"N

Longitude: -7.4216 / 7°25'17"W

OS Eastings: 76723

OS Northings: 875366

OS Grid: NF767753

Mapcode National: GBR 882H.MF7

Mapcode Global: WGV1R.ZX2Z

Entry Name: Geirisclett, settlement 700m NE of Loch Beag nan Eun

Scheduled Date: 6 September 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13672

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement; Secular: Viking settlement, Norse settlement

Location: North Uist

County: Na h-Eileanan Siar

Electoral Ward: Beinn na Foghla agus Uibhist a Tuath

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

The monument is the remains of a multi-period settlement mound, dating to the Middle Iron Age (400 BC – 200 AD), Norse (900 – 1000 AD) and post-medieval periods. It survives as a substantial mound with exposed stonework and lengths of walling visible on the summit. A shell midden survives on the east side of the mound. The monument is located on the summit of a distinct knoll in the centre of the Geirisclett peninsula, at about 5m above sea level.

The settlement mound measures about 25m north to south by around 22m transversely. A substantial arc of walling, measuring around 20m long, up to 2m wide and 0.8m high, defines the north and west sides of the summit. It likely represents the outer wall of a broadly circular structure constructed on the summit of the mound, though its full circuit cannot be traced. Lengths of walling, delineating possible cellular structures as well as indications of rectangular buildings are visible within the interior of this structure, along with loose and jumbled stonework.

The scheduled area, centred on the monument, is circular on plan and measures 50m in diameter, to include 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 survives as a substantial stony mound representing the remains of prehistoric and later buildings, along with associated archaeological deposits. Small scale excavations in the early 20th century partially revealed a building interpreted as a wheelhouse or similar structure of Middle Iron Age (400 BC – 200 AD) date – it was described as comprising a large central chamber with oblong hearth, surrounded by small cells. This interpretation is supported by the recovery of later prehistoric decorated pottery during the excavation of the monument. Other finds recovered include flaked pieces of flint, hammer stones and worked bone and antler.

The excavation was on a small scale but has demonstrated that there is good survival of archaeological deposits, including occupation and abandonment debris, floor deposits, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal or pollen within, beneath and around the upstanding structures. This monument has the potential to add to our understanding of settlement, land-use and environment during the later prehistoric to post-medieval periods. It can provide information about the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, the structure of contemporary society and economy and the changing use of the site over time.

The evidence from the excavation combined with the visible remains indicates at least three periods of occupation. The wheelhouse is Middle Iron Age in date and provides the earliest evidence of activity. Norse artefacts of worked bone and antler recovered during the early 20th century excavations of the monument indicate occupation during this period, though there is no record of the context from which they were recovered. Some of the structures visible on the surface of the mound may relate to post-medieval occupation. As not all of the visible remains have been dated, it is likely that the monument was also occupied outwith these periods.

The evidence, therefore, indicates a complex sequence of development with occupation spanning as much as two millennia. It is not clear whether this occupation was continuous or periodic in nature. Scientific study of this site would allow us to develop a better understanding of the nature and chronology of the settlement, including its date of origin, the character of the remains and the development sequence. It has the potential to add to our understanding of the nature of long-term settlement in North Uist.

Contextual Characteristics

Later prehistoric settlement is found throughout the Western Isles, with a concentration upon the western machair coastlands. Evidence of Norse occupation is more restricted but appears to occupy the same locations, while post-medieval occupation can be identified across the Western Isles. The monument at Geirisclett is significant as a substantial and well-preserved settlement mound, situated on the north end of North Uist, with evidence for long-term occupation or re-occupation.

The site forms one part of a wider cluster of later prehistoric remains, including the wheelhouses at Garry lochdrach (Canmore ID 10096), Cnoc A'comhdalach (Canmore ID 10038) and Eileann Maleit (Canmore ID 10095), and lies within a broad scatter of post-medieval remains, including shieling huts, farmsteads and townships. Two sites with similar evidence for long-term occupation, Eilean Olabhat (Canmore ID 10063) and The Udal (Canmore ID 10319; 10330), have also been excavated nearby. Eilean Olabhat was occupied periodically during the Iron Age, Early Historic and medieval periods, while The Udal was continuously occupied from the Neolithic to the post-medieval periods. The proximity of these remains has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of settlement from the later prehistoric to the post-medieval periods. There is potential to study these sites together to understand their functions within the local communities, social status and place in the settlement hierarchy, as well as changing settlement patterns and systems of inheritance.

The monument is positioned on a knoll forming the highest point on the Geirisclett peninsula. It therefore occupies a prominent position with open views in all directions and may have been built here to increase its prominence.

Associative Characteristics

The monument was partially excavated by Erskine Beveridge in the early 1900s. Beveridge was a wealthy industrialist and owner of the Vallay estate. He excavated extensively across the estate. Beveridge's work made an important contribution to the understanding of the archaeology, history, folklore and place-name studies of North Uist.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it can make a significant addition to our understanding of Iron Age, Norse and post-medieval society and the construction, use and development of settlement in the Western Isles. It is a good example of a multi-period settlement with evidence for long-term occupation and has significant potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits. As a well-preserved example of a settlement, the monument can significantly expand our understanding of domestic buildings, agriculture and economy. The monument's importance is enhanced by its association with a wider cluster of later prehistoric and post-medieval remains. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the character and development of Iron Age, Norse and post-medieval settlements as well as society and economy during these periods.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 10038 (accessed on 27/06/2017).

Armit, I., Campbell, E. and Dunwell, A. (2008) Excavation of an Iron Age, Early Historic and medieval settlement and metalworking site at Eilean Olabhat, North Uist, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 138, 27-104.

Barber, J. (2003) Bronze Age farms and Iron Age farm mounds of the Outer Hebrides, Scottish Archaeological Internet Report 3.

Beveridge, E. (1911) North Uist: its archaeology and topography, with notes upon the early history of the Outer Hebrides. Edinburgh

Dunwell, A. (1998) Valley Strand Project, 1995-7. Survey report. Report No. 389. Unpublished Report: CFA.

Rennell, R. (2009) Exploring places and landscapes of everyday experience in the Outer Hebridean Iron Age: a study of theory, method and application in experiential landscape archaeology. Unpublished PhD; UCL

Sharples, N. (2010) A short history of the archaeology in the Uists, Outer Hebrides, Journal of the North Atlantic, 9, 1-15.

Sharples, N. and Parker Pearson, M. (1999) Norse settlement in the Outer Hebrides, Norwegian Archaeological Review, 32(1), 41-62.

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/10038/

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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