Ancient Monuments

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Ashaig, burnt mound 125m NNW of Faskin

A Scheduled Monument in Eilean á Chèo, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.2491 / 57°14'56"N

Longitude: -5.8281 / 5°49'41"W

OS Eastings: 169172

OS Northings: 824090

OS Grid: NG691240

Mapcode National: GBR C9ZK.K8F

Mapcode Global: WGZ96.F2Y3

Entry Name: Ashaig, burnt mound 125m NNW of Faskin

Scheduled Date: 4 September 2019

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13721

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: burnt mound

Location: Strath

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Eilean á Chèo

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

The monument comprises a burnt mound, a prehistoric monument comprising burnt stones and charcoal that often covers the remains of structures. It comprises a U-shaped bank of earth and heat-cracked stone. It is located on a gentle south facing slope adjacent to a small stream at around 10m above sea level on rough grazing land in Ashaig.

The mound measures 9m from northwest to southeast by 8m transversely, with the scooped interior measuring 3m by 3m and around 0.5m deep. The unenclosed south face, the ends of which measured around 1m in height, faces onto a small stream. The monument is likely to date to the Bronze Age, around 2200-800BC, however there are examples of burnt mounds in Scotland dating from the Neolithic to the medieval period.

The scheduled area is circular, measuring 20m in diameter, centred on the monument. It includes the remains described above and an area around 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

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17)

a. The monument is of national importance because it makes significant contribution to our understanding of the past as an example of a burnt mound of probable prehistoric date. The survival of archaeological deposits can inform us of the construction of burnt mounds, their dating (particularly in this area of Scotland), and the activities which took place at such sites.

b. The monument retains structural and other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. In particular the above ground remains indicate the potential for buried structures and archaeological deposits which can inform us about the nature of burnt mounds.

c. In our current state of knowledge, the monument is a rare example of this monument type in the Hebrides where there are relatively few examples compared to other areas of Scotland. There are only three other recorded examples on the Isle of Skye.

d. The monument is a particularly good example of a burnt mound, surviving in good condition and in a typical location. It is therefore an important representative of this monument type on the Hebrides. It has the ability to enhance our understanding of the dating, form and function of burnt mounds and their placing in the landscape.

e. The monument has archaeological and scientific research potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the economy, environment, diet and food preparation practices in this area of Scotland during the later prehistoric period.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The mound represents a well preserved example of a burnt mound which survives in good condition. The crescentic plan form of this monument is typical of burnt mounds as is the location close to a watercourse. There is a high likelihood of associated well-preserved sub-surface remains. The monument has the potential to inform our understanding of the construction and phasing of burnt mounds, the socio-economic structures of the prehistoric or early historic communities that built them, as well as about the environments in which they lived, farmed, gathered and hunted.

Burnt mounds are specialised, non-domestic structures. The mounds or banks of earth and broken stone are the discarded material from the process of heating water. Stones were heated over fires before they were placed in stone or timber tanks of water, causing the water to boil. The heated stone cracks during this process. Heat-cracked stone is one of the key indicators when identifying burnt mounds and is present at this site. Interpretations of burnt mounds vary including places for cooking associated with hunting or herding, tanning hides, textile production or saunas/sweat lodges.

Excavations of burnt mounds elsewhere suggest that the mound may cover a stone or timber lined structure containing a tank or pit for holding water. This is likely to contain artefacts and organic remains, such as pottery, tools, charcoal and food remains such as grain, from the activities on site and the people who used it. The possible survival of this evidence in deposits can inform us of the processes used to create the burnt mound alongside give a better understanding of the function of these sites.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

The monument is a rare example of a burnt mound on Skye, with only three other recorded examples from the Island. This compares to the wider distribution of over 1900 burnt mounds in Scotland. Burnt mounds are mainly concentrated in the Northern Isles, Caithness, Sutherland and Dumfries and Galloway although this may not represent the actual distribution of burnt mounds but a may reflect a bias in discovery and recording. This burnt mound is therefore important as a recorded example outwith of these concentrations.

The overall dimensions of this burnt mound are relatively small compared to other examples in northern Scotland. The scale of the Ashaig burnt mound is comparable to those found in southwest and northeast Scotland. Research has shown that the smaller burnt mounds of southern Scotland are often in clusters, suggesting repeated phases of short lived activity, making this isolated burnt mound unusual. It is possible that there were other examples in the area that have not survived or that this burnt mound may have been used over multiple phases despite its smaller size.

Excavations of burnt mounds on North and South Uist demonstrated a considerably varied structure compared to other examples of the monument type elsewhere in Scotland. This suggests that there may have been a distinct Hebridean form. Comparing and contrasting this example on the Isle of Skye to other burnt mounds in the locality and those outside the region, can help inform our understanding of regional economy and society.

Evidence for possible Bronze Age settlement in the vicinity includes a recorded roundhouse (Canmore ID 331657) 550m west northwest of the burnt mound, surviving as a low stony bank 20 metres in diameter. The burnt mound at Ashaig therefore has potential to demonstrate wider Bronze Age settlement patterns in the vicinity.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known associative characteristics for this monument.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland https://canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 11583 (accessed 6th May 2019)

Highland HER https://her.highland.gov.uk/home reference number MHG5303 (accessed on 6th May 2019)

Halliday, S. P. (1990). Patterns of fieldwork and the distribution of burnt mounds in Scotland, in V Buckley, Burnt Offerings: International Contributions to Burnt Mound Archaeology, Dublin: Wordwell Ltd, pp.60-1.

Armit, I., and Braby, A. (2002). 'Excavation of a burnt mound and associated structures at Ceann nan Clachan, North Uist', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, 132: pp.229-258

Bar'eld, L. & Hodder, M. (1987). Burnt Mounds as Saunas and the Prehistory of Bathing, Antiquity, 61:pp. 370-9

Brown, A., (et al.), (2016), The Environmental Context and Function of Burnt-Mounds: New Studies of Irish Fulachtai Fiadh, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 82: pp.259-290.

Doughton, L. (2012). Burnt Mounds: Transforming Space and Place in Bronze Age Shetland. In The Border of Farming Shetland and Scandinavia. Copenhagen, September 19th to 21st. Denmark: Northern Worlds, pp.35-46.

Downes, E., (eds). (2012). ScARF Bronze Age Panel Report. [online] scottishheritagehub.com. Available at: https://www.scottishheritagehub.com/content/scarf-bronze-age-panel-report [Accessed 23rd May 2019]

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/11583/


HER/SMR Reference

https://her.highland.gov.uk/Monument/MHG5303

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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