MHG29196 - Mesolithic occupation site - Camas Daraich


A Mesolithic occupation site at Camas Daraich, Skye.

Type and Period (2)

  • OCCUPATION SITE (Mesolithic - 6085 BC? to 5850 BC?)
  • LITHIC WORKING SITE (Mesolithic - 6085 BC? to 5850 BC?)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A Mesolithic occupation site at Camas Daraich, Skye.

The site was first discovered by S Birch on 13/11/1999 with the finding of a single fragment of Rum Bloodstone at the south end of a new access track, constructed a few months earlier by the the local crofters. The site was subsequently visited by S Birch and M Wildgoose on two occasions (20 and 24/11/1999) to examine the entire track and its associated spoil heaps They collected 1742 lithics, mostly bloodstone, of which 109 were recognisable tools, and noted a possible hearth or pit complex, which contained fragments of carbonised hazelnut shell and small pieces of burnt bone. Many of the lithics from around and within these features also appeared to be burnt. Two further sites, also exposed or possibly destroyed by the access track were found to the north (see MHG62239 & MHG62240). The site was covered in Jan 2000 to protect it from winter storms. The site was monitored on a regular basis with visits being made after gales and intense periods of rain. A total of 203 additional lithics were recovered, with 19 being recognisable tools. The site lies on a raised beach of some 1600m² in extent, with only a small portion laid bare by the excavation of the track (c.250m²). <1>

Site monitoring work continued into April 2000 and a fourth site was also identified (see MHG62241). Subsequently, excavation work in May 2000, and preliminary analysis of the site was carried out as a collaborative project between the Centre for Field Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, and Historic Scotland. The site was identified as potentially of great interest due to its location on the 20m raised beach which dates to the Late-glacial period, and to the presence of possibly early lithic types: tanged points. The excavation focused on the main site, and was carried out as a trial season to characterise the site. Excavation work concentrated on one trench (Tr1) across the new track, together with four test pits and three soil pits. The preservation of a greasy black occupation layer in the vicinity of Tr1 was confirmed. This layer sits directly on the raised beach and it contained artificial features. An assemblage of 2013 pieces of flaked stone were recovered from the excavation, together with some coarse stone and pumice. The presence of charcoal and carbonised hazelnut shell was also confirmed. The flaked stone assemblage includes several pieces that are typologically early and are not common in Scotland. In addition there are other microliths that would conventionally be more appropriate to the post-glacial settlement of Scotland. Work on site was terminated prematurely. While this affected the amount of excavation undertaken, an adequate assessment of the remains was carried out. <2>

All the work on-site up to and including May 2000 and subsequent analysis (including environmental work) was reported on and formally published in SAIR in 2004. 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. Four samples were assayed for radiocarbon determinations. These were chosen carefully to date uncontaminated cultural material (no easy task given the level of disturbance). Two samples came from context 08: the cultural material that lay in a scoop on the surface of the raised beach. The other two came from context 10: cultural material from within the ‘hearth’ area in B1. <3>

Following preliminary seasons of test pitting in 2008 and 2009 both to obtain radiocarbon dates for a series of shell middens, and to familiarise the Catalan participants with the local geographical and archaeological contexts in west coast Scotland, excavations was carried out at Point of Sleat in 2010 by K Hardy and students and staff from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. The first full field season took place in 2010; the Mesolithic site of Camas Daraich was reopened, the excavation was extended and preliminary test pits were opened at two of the shell midden sites. Excavation at the Mesolithic site of Camas Daraich revealed a large lithic assemblage, a small pumice and coarse stone assemblage including an unusual incised pebble, a small amount of charcoal and burnt hazelnut shell, a carbonised tuber and several concentric circles of stones. Additionally, a topographic survey and geomorphological mapping integrating the palaeolake, the raised shorelines and the archaeological sites was conducted. <4>

The Museum of the Isles holds the excavation assemblage from the site, which comprised 3 boxes. SAIR report published on the work at the site describes the assemblage at nearly 5000 flaked lithics. <5>

See also MHG36657 and MHG42803. Possible duplicates which need merging. This would appear to be the original record. GW 25/06/18

Sources/Archives (5)



Grid reference Centred NG 5670 0005 (29m by 57m)
Map sheet NG50SE
Geographical Area SKYE AND LOCHALSH
Civil Parish SLEAT

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (3)

External Links (3)

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