MHG37251 - Rock Shelter and Midden - Ard Clais Salacher


Rock shelter with midden and structure investigated by the Scotland's First Settlers Project. The midden was radiocarbon dated to the 15-17th centuries.

Type and Period (2)

  • MIDDEN (Early Iron Age to 17th Century - 550 BC? to 1700 AD) + Sci.Date
  • ROCK SHELTER (Early Iron Age to 19th Century - 550 BC? to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Created automatically by NMRS Register Utility
User: Admin, Date: Wed 13 Oct 2004
NG65SE 9 6820 5109, 6829 5123 and 6837 5134
The following sites were recorded between October 1999 and May 2000 as part of the Scotland's First Settlers Project (See DES 2000, 44):
NG 6837 5134 Ard Clais Salacher 1 Cave. >
NG 6829 5123 Ard Clais Salacher 2 Cave. + * (This record)
NG 6820 5109 Ard Clais Salacher 3 Rockshelter.
Notes: + = containing visible midden.
* = test-pitted sites.
> = sites considered inappropriate for test pitting.
A full report has been lodged with the NMRS.
K hardy and C Wickham-Jones 2000

Ard Clais Salacher 2, a rockshelter with midden and structures, was investigated by the Scotland's First Settlers Project in 2000. This site was situated in the sheltered base of an old sea cliff. A storm beach lay between the site and the sea: many of the rocks near the shelter were moss and heather covered and they had dangerous voids between them. Some recent rockfall from the cliff face was also visible though the undulating interior, deepest in the north, was dry and stable. A substantial drystone wall ran under the drip line and shell midden material was eroding out here, indicating either that the midden had been used as packing or insulation in the wall core or that it had been thrown up against the wall. The wall was of massive construction, built of large angular stones with a distinct and narrow entrance towards its southern end and it had traces of circular remains on the outside; these may be natural voids. Inside it had drystone piers, forming rough cubicles. Two recent hearths were visible inside the cave with shell and animal remains scattered around.
Only one test pit was dug as no excavations were possible on the rocky exterior. It was aligned north-east—south-west and lay in the northern interior. It contained four clear contexts in well defined stratigraphy. All of the contexts thinned out away from the hearth and may be associated with it. Neither the base of the midden or any sign of bedrock were seen.
Twelve lithics were recovered mostly of chalcedonic silica and flint, but there were two pieces of quartz. Half of the assemblage was debitage, but there were also four regular flakes, a gunflint and a fragment of a retouched tool which had been reused as a strike-a-light. The presence of the latter two pieces together with several pieces that were undoubtedly flint, including one fine black flake, suggests that this assemblage has resulted from relatively recent stone tool use. The gunflint is an irregular piece, made of orange flint and probably of local manufacture.
There were eight sherds of pottery, including a piece of modern glazed pottery. Sherds of various different types of coarse pottery were present including a fragment of a rounded base, body sherds and a decorated neck sherd. The nature of the decoration on the latter – a band of incised decoration around the neck of the vessel – is indicative of an Iron Age date (such as decoration on a vessel dating to the earlier Iron Age from Kebister, Shetland). Two sherds of olive-green glass were also found. Bone was also recovered with cattle, sheep and pig dominating the bone assemblage. There were smaller quantities of bone from small mammals with a single amphibian bone. There was also an assemblage of fish bone, including saithe or pollack, cod, wrasse and other gadids. This suggests both inshore fishing using lines, nets or traps and deeper water fishing. Limpet and periwinkle predominated throughout. Mussel, razor shell and flat periwinkle occurred in very small amounts.
This site had three radiocarbon dates from the mid 15th to mid 17th centuries AD (AD 1450- 1640; AD 1450-1640; AD 1440-1640). The samples were all taken from a shell midden layer low down in the stratigraphy in a sparse brown matrix.
This site had deep, well-preserved archaeological deposits, the base of which was not reached. The dates indicate a focus of activity in the post-medieval period, but the pottery might indicate earlier, Iron Age, activity. Some of the lithic material would clearly support later activity, though it is possible that some of it relates to Iron Age use. The glass is post-medieval in date and this agrees with the radiocarbon determinations. <1>

See link below to published report for detailed information including radiocarbon dates. See also link below to the Scottish Radiocarbon Database.

Sources/Archives (1)



Grid reference Centred NG 6829 5122 (30m by 30m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NG65SE
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (3)

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