MHG35892 - Midden and Rock Shelter - Sand 1


An extensive excavation was carried out at a rockshelter and midden site by the Scotland's First Settlers Project.

Type and Period (2)

  • ROCK SHELTER (Mesolithic to Late Iron Age - 8000 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • SHELL MIDDEN (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC) + Sci.Date

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

The following sites were recorded between January and September 1999 as part of the Scotland's First Settlers Project.
NG 6841 4934 Sand 1 is a rock shelter with a shallow but wide overhang above what appears to be a late glacial coastline. Eleven test trenches were opened during August 1999. Most trenches yielded some material but trench 9 was the only one to produce significant anthropogenic material, including a substantial midden and artefacts including microliths and fragments of bone and antler. There appear to be no deposits surviving within the shallow rock shelter, however the terrace in front has a discrete midden deposit containing well-preserved organic remains. In addition there appears to be evidence for activity around the midden in the form of a lithic scatter and fire-shattered rocks. Seven bone tools and 450 lithics, including eight narrow blade microliths were found, as well as one barbed-and-tanged arrowhead from the surface.
NG 6837 4936 Sand 2 Rock shelter. +
Note: + = containing visible midden
Sponsors: British Academy, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of London, Percy Hedley Trust, Russell Trust, Prehistoric Society, Applecross Trust.
B Finlayson, K Hardy and C Wickham-Jones 1999

NG 6841 4934 A major excavation was carried out at the Mesolithic shell midden site of Sand. The midden lies just outside a shallow rockshelter 500m from the present sea level, at a height of 27.7m. No evidence survives to indicate prehistoric use of the rockshelter but two L-shaped trenches, Trench A (20 x 2m) and Trench B (25 x 2m) were opened downslope to excavate 90m2 across the midden and the area immediately surrounding it. Preliminary results suggest that the midden (90% limpet) may have accumulated over a very short time, possibly a few seasons. The midden contained both Obanian-type bone artefacts and narrow blade microliths in direct association, thus suggesting that these artefact types are not mutually exclusive. The relatively small number of fish bones suggests that shellfish were used for food, and not simply for bait. There were large numbers of stone pot boilers, apparently an indication of the processing of shellfish, and it is likely that the bevel-ended bone tools were also involved. While shellfish remain dominant, the presence of charred hazelnuts, animal bone and fish bone indicate the use of a wide range of other resources. The presence of inedible dog whelk, harvested during the Neolithic for the extraction of purple dye, is indicative of the importance of some form of colour or art. Beneath the midden lay a non-midden layer containing a large quantity of antler and animal bone. Non-midden deposits were also present to either side of the midden. These include microliths and other stone tools.
A full report has been lodged with the NMRS.
Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of London, Prehistoric Society, Russell Trust, Applecross Estates Trust, Munro Fund, University of Edinburgh, Ross and Cromarty Enterprise, Leader 11, CFA, private donations.
K Hardy and C Wickham-Jones 2000

Some radiocarbon dated samples were redated in 2006, as part of the redating of some Scottish specimens by the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit programme. They indicated Mesolithic dates for the bone artefacts found in the midden. <1>

See link below to the Scottish Radiocarbon Database for radiocarbon dates.

See link below to SAIR report, section 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, for full details of the excavations at Sand. Over 16,500 pieces of flaked stone have been recovered from the site, 451 pieces prior to excavation and over 16,000 pieces from the main excavation in 2000. <2>

Sources/Archives (2)



Grid reference Centred NG 6836 4937 (20m by 20m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NG64NE
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY

Finds (23)

  • POLISHED AXEHEAD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC) + Sci.Date
  • BARBED AND TANGED ARROWHEAD (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • CASTING WASTE (Early Bronze Age to Late Iron Age - 2400 BC to 560 AD)
  • BEAD (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SLAG (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • SHERD (Post Medieval - 1560 AD? to 1900 AD?)
  • SHERD (Post Medieval - 1560 AD to 1900 AD)
  • BEAD (Medieval to 19th Century - 1058 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CORE (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • DEBITAGE (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BLADE (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • RETOUCHED FLAKE (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • NOTCH (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • AWL (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • TRANSVERSE ARROWHEAD (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROBURIN (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BACKED BLADE (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • POINT (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • WORKED OBJECT (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (3)

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