MHG38076 - Late Bronze Age metalworking site at Galmisdale, Eigg


A small-scale Late Bronze Age metalworking site comprising finds of clay piece-moulds, crucibles and casting debris from within a setting of boulders. Earlier activity is apparent from an assemblage of Neolithic/Early Bronze Age flint tools.

Type and Period (2)

  • OCCUPATION SITE (Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 551 BC)
  • METAL WORKING SITE (Late Bronze Age - 1250 BC to 551 BC)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Created automatically by NMRS Register Utility
User: Admin, Date: Wed 13 Oct 2004
NM48SE 36 c.475 844

NM 475 844 During May 2001, the discovery of what was later identified as prehistoric metalworking debris was reported to members of a team from the RCAHMS, while engaged on a field survey of the island of Eigg. An islander had been burying a cat in the lee of a large boulder near his house at Galmisdale. In the course of digging the pit he encountered what he identified as fragments of clay piece-moulds, crucibles and other associated casting debris. He brought his finds to the attention of the survey team and the Late Bronze Age character of the material was then first recognised.
The finds were brought to the attention of the NMS, where their identification and the significance of the discovery was confirmed. The mould fragments indicate the production of at least two socketed axes, what is probably a knife, and also at least one other type as yet unidentified. The character of the clay refractory material and the metalwork types involved probably indicate a date for this activity between about 1000-800 BC. In Britain and Ireland as a whole, sites producing evidence of Bronze Age metalworking activity remain at a premium. The recovery of a significant quantity of metalworking debris from Galmisdale therefore indicates a site of potential importance in terms of informing our knowledge of workshop practices.
Exploratory fieldwork was undertaken in June 2001 in order to assess the original context of the finds. Surface indications, coupled with the finder's account of his own excavation, initially suggested that the metalworking activity might have been taking place within an oval setting of large boulders, formed around the large boulder which first drew his attention to the spot. However, it transpired that the boulder structure was probably later than the metalworking episode, and may represent the construction of a small pen or shelter in the course of later agricultural activity. No definite in situ evidence of metalworking was located, but further fragments of clay mould were found lying in the deep slope-wash deposits which had accumulated against the largest boulder. Although the finder's original excavation may yet prove to have removed much of the evidence, these suggest that the focus for the metalworking may have been just uphill from the trenches investigated in 2001.
The largest boulder, which drew the finder to the spot initially, was clearly an original feature of the terrace on which the site lay. Tucked into the old ground surface at its foot was a small cache of over 40 flint flakes and tools. The flints await detailed analysis but their character suggests a Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date, indicating activity at the spot long prior to the metalworking episode and perhaps testifying to the importance of this boulder as an enduring feature of the local landscape.
On the terrace immediately above that occupied by the site, there is one previously recorded hut circle (NMRS NM 48 SE 12) and possible indications of field clearance, suggesting the metalworking may have taken place within an area of settlement rather than in isolation. However, on the basis of the debris recovered so far, the metalworking episode itself may have been small-scale and short-lived, and may not have required any formal built structure. Together with clarification of the various phases of human activity in the immediate vicinity of the boulder, the detection and excavation of any remaining undisturbed portions of the actual locus of the metalworking are the chief priorities for further work planned for 2002.
Sponsor: National Museum of Scotland.
T Cowie 2001 <1>

A preliminary report was published in 2002 in advance of further work at the site (see assoc. docs). <2>

Further excavations took place in 2002 which confirmed the metalworking episode to have been small-scale and short-lived. The spread of metalworking debris was largely confined to the interior of the boulder setting. Further fragments of clay piece-moulds, crucibles and associated casting debris were recovered. In addition, two trial trenches were excavated to assess the condition and possible date of the hut circle on the terrace above the site. <3>

The NMS catalogue lists an assemblage from the site under Acc. No, 2015.38. <4>

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred NM 4749 8440 (30m by 30m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NM48SE
Civil Parish SMALL ISLES
Geographical Area LOCHABER

Finds (3)

  • MOULD (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • CRUCIBLE (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • HOARD (Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 551 BC)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (1)

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.