MHG35899 - Lithic Scatters - An Corran, Staffin Bay

Summary

The Scotland's First Settlers survey work resulted in the recording of a suite of lithic scatter sites around the bay at Staffin, starting from the area between An Corran rockshelter and the sea and working northwards. These have been named An Corran B-G.

Type and Period (1)

  • LITHIC SCATTER (Mesolithic to Neolithic - 8000 BC? to 2401 BC?)

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. A full report has been lodged with the NMRS.
NG 4885 6851 An Corran B Lithic scatter. +
NG 4877 6840 An Corran C Lithic scatter. +
NG 4864 6836 An Corran D Lithic scatter. +
Note: + = containing visible midden
B Finlayson, K Hardy and C Wickham-Jones 1999

The following sites were recorded between October 1999 and May 2000 as part of the Scotland's First Settlers Project (DES 1999, 49-50):
NG 4890 6838 An Corran E Lithic scatter.
A full report has been lodged with the NMRS.
K Hardy and C Wickham-Jones 2000

The Scotland's First Settlers survey work in 1999, 2000 and 2001 resulted in the recording of a suite of open- air lithic scatter sites around the bay at Staffin, starting from the area between An Corran rockshelter (An Corran A, SFS 1, see MHG6497) and the sea and working northwards. These have been named An Corran B-G. In addition there is a site at Brogaig, also in Staffin Bay.
B: NG 4885 6851 (SFS 29)
C: NG 4877 6840 (SFS 30)
D: NG 4864 6836 (SFS 31)
E: NG 4890 6838 (SFS 101)
F: NG 4861 6827 (SFS 193)
G: NG 4853 6815 (SFS 194)
Brogaig : NG 4730 6871 (SFS 32)

The An Corran sites and Brogaig are still eroding so that most visits result in the recovery of further material. Monitoring took place at irregular intervals throughout the project but, due to the constraints of time and money, a halt to monitoring work was called with the result that the catalogue of lithic material is only a sample of what was recovered (and what might be found in future). The quantity of lithic finds from each site varies greatly. Raw materials reflect the local availability of baked mudstone and chalcedonic silica, though it is interesting that some assemblages have more baked mudstone, while others have more chalcedonic silica. Quartz is present in a very small quantity and in addition there are a few pieces of Rùm bloodstone and volcanic glass. Most of the sites have both debitage and regular pieces. Narrow blade microliths were recovered from three sites – An Corran C, E and F – and most sites also had larger modified tools as well, mainly edge-retouched pieces and scrapers. In addition, blades were found on all sites except for F, G and A, though at G and A the assemblage only comprised of isolated finds. There were three sherds of pottery: one from An Corran C and two from An Corran E. A single, undiagnostic, rimsherd was found at An Corran C, but the two pieces from An Corran E include a sherd of Unstan ware, dating to the earlier part of the Neolithic. Dating material was not recovered during SFS work apart from the general characterisation of the flaked lithics. Mesolithic material, in the form of microliths, came from three of the sites (C, E & F), while three others had blades, but no microliths. Although it is obvious that by and large the microliths came from the larger assemblages (C & E), sites B, D and Brogaig also had good-sized collections and it is likely that microliths would have been spotted had they been present. The rockshelter site at An Corran A has evidence of activity from the Early Mesolithic into the Neolithic and in this respect the generally undiagnostic nature of several of the lithic assemblages is noteworthy. <1>

Archaeological excavation, a topographic survey and geophysical surveys were undertaken by UHI Archaeology Institute in 2015 and Staffin Community Trust to investigate a suspected Mesolithic site above the raised beach at the eastern end of Staffin Bay. The geophysical and topographic surveys were undertaken before excavation started; the results defined the site area and nearby lazy beds. A small evaluation trench established that a small circular stone-built enclosure was built upon the former topsoil, and is likely to date to the post-medieval period rather than forming a prehistoric house. Dark layers below the structure, however, yielded high quantities of worked lithics, in the form of flakes, cores and microliths. Carbonised hazelnut shells were also recovered and these have been radiocarbon dated to the Mesolithic period c.6800 – 6600 BC (calibrated). In-situ structures and hearths relating to the lithics and burnt material were not evident, although only a small area was excavated. The site appears to have been one of several gathering places for hunter gatherer groups along Staffin Bay, including the contemporary rock shelter at nearby An Corran. <2>

Visits to the sites have been undertaken by S Birch over several years since the work undertaken by the Scotland's First Settlers Project. A large quantity of additional material has been collected and additional exposures near to the known sites have expanded the areas where similar material may be expected. The lithics collected from the sites around Staffin Bay are primarily composed of debitage and rough chunks, with a few identifiable tools including microliths present. The abraded nature of some of the artefacts, especially the baked mudstone, also makes positive identification difficult. However, cores of baked mudstone, chalcedonic silica and bloodstone may provide some evidence to the types of technology used on these sites, along with the finer blades, flakes, tools with retouch and microliths. The full analysis and cataloguing of the recovered assemblages of lithics should remain a priority and the results will help us to understand the complex settlement patterns that are becoming obvious in the landscapes surrounding Staffin Bay and their chronology. <3>

An archaeological evaluation was carried out by AOC Archaeology Group in Jan 2022, commissioned by the Staffin Community Trust, in advance of works to improve the slipway road to Staffin harbour and development at the harbour itself in Staffin, Isle of Skye. The proposed improvement works include the expansion of existing passing places, road widening and parking areas. A test pit evaluation was conducted in order to assess the archaeological potential of 16 work areas proposed for expansion; and measured survey and photographic recording undertaken of boat naust structures. The evaluation comprised the hand excavation of 16 test pits and 11 shovel pits across the development areas. Evidence for the manufacturing of prehistoric stone tools, likely Mesolithic in date and including lithics, possible coarse stone tools, and raw stone material were recovered from several of these areas, predominantly between the southwest-northeast stretch of the slipway road. Most of the material appeared out of its original context, however there were two instances of possible in-situ archaeological deposits. A further programme of fieldwork and post-excavation was recommended. <4>

An archaeological watching brief was carried out at the site by AOC Archaeology Group in Jan-Feb 2022. The work follows on from an archaeological evaluation carried out on the site. The archaeological results from a preceding phase of test pit evaluation had informed the locations targeted for the archaeological watching brief and were concentrated along the northwest to southeast stretch of the slipway road. The monitored works focused on the stretch of road between the Stenscholl River bridge to the An Corran headland. One pit containing charcoal, possible burnt hazelnut shell and burnt bone fragments was uncovered within the road-widening trench. An assemblage of struck lithics and possible coarse stone tools was recovered from the works from both an in-situ deposit below the peat / topsoil and from re-deposited material deriving from drainage ditching works. A programme of post-excavation work was recommended, and a watching brief on the dismantling of the boat nausts remains to be carried out. <5>

Sources/Archives (5)

Map

Location

Grid reference Centred NG 4874 6837 (553m by 455m) (Buffered by site type)
Map sheet NG46NE
Geographical Area SKYE AND LOCHALSH

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (5)

External Links (2)

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