MHG54242 - Possible prehistoric settlement - Area 4, Lochloy, Nairn


Pits, post-holes, hearths and a possible structure were recorded during trial trenching in 2006.

Type and Period (8)

  • HEARTH (Unknown date)
  • POST HOLE (Unknown date)
  • PIT (Early Medieval - 561 AD to 1057 AD) + Sci.Date
  • SETTLEMENT? (Neolithic to Early Medieval - 4000 BC? to 1057 AD?)
  • CREMATION (Early Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 1501 BC) + Sci.Date
  • CORN DRYING KILN? (Pictish to Early Medieval - 300 AD to 1057 AD) + Sci.Date
  • FIELD SYSTEM? (Early Medieval - 561 AD? to 1057 AD?)
  • PIT (Unknown date)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Stuart Farrell was commissioned by Kylauren Homes Ltd in late October 2006 to undertake a programme of archaeological trial trenching and any required excavation on the site of a proposed housing development to the east of Nairn. This work formed phases 6 to 9 of the Lochloy development, Balmakeith, Nairn.
A desktop survey had recognised one archaeological site to be recorded in the proposed area of development, the cropmark of an enclosure visible in aerial photographs. However, geophysical survey conducted in 2000 failed to locate this. Trial trenching conducted in late October – late November 2006 was negative for any remains of the enclosure but revealed a number of archaeological features, including kilns, hearths, pits, postholes, and other features.
These findings in turn led to seven areas of excavation being conducted. Radiocarbon dating revealed a multi-period site with Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and early medieval features: at least one Early Neolithic timber structure, two groups of pits of Bronze Age date, three hearths of Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age dates, and four kilns, two of which were of the early medieval period.
Due to heavy ploughing over the site, most of the features revealed were very shallow, consequently few finds were made limiting sources for dating, although it remains possible that the area in question has seen only sporadic periods of use.

A complex of structures were excavated in Area 4. They formed two groups of features along the edge of a natural sandstone ridge. Altogether about 120 features were located in this area of excavation.
The first group was to the north of the area, where there were 16 pits of varying size and depth, a possible grave (though no remains were found), a possible hearth, two slots and six postholes. Of the slots it was thought initially that slot one may have been structural, but no stakeholes or postholes were found within to explain its function. The second slot was V-shaped in profile and its relation to the other unknown. Radiocarbon dating of one of the pits closest to the slots produced an early medieval date range of 660-770 AD (calibrated to 1 sigma). The fill also produced barley when sampled. It may be possible that the slots may are the remains of an early medieval field system.
The second group was to the centre and south east of the area, and was dominated also by 29 pits of varying size. In addition there were 24 postholes, a cremation deposit, a well, a hearth and two modern pits. Of the pits, one was revealed to be a probable corn-drying kiln, though slightly larger than that revealed in Area 3. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal from one of its fills produced a pictish/early medieval date range of 430-570 AD (calibrated to 1 sigma).
Of the postholes, one group of three may have formed part of a fence-line due to their linear alignment. A second group of postholes may have formed part of a structure, due to the number in close proximinity to each other, but nothing was wholly discernible onsite. A hearth, heart shaped in plan, might have been associated with this possible structure.
The cremation deposit was revealed in a small pit. The bone was radiocarbon dated, producing a Bronze Age date range of 1690-1530 BC (calibrated to 1 sigma). Analysis of the bone proved to be unfeasible due to the level of fragmentization; given the date and the prevailing funerary traditions in this period they are likely to be human.
The well was the largest feature on the site. It was given a relatively modern date, possibly 19th century for its construction. Due its depth (2.9m) part of the well had to be excavated by machine for safety reasons. Close to the well were revealed two pits], both spade-cut and containing early-mid 19th century pottery in their fills.
Finds were very few, and all were found in various different pits. These included animal bone and marine mollusc shell (which may indicate the pits containing them to be recent due to their survival in acidic soil), a piece of iron and two sherds of prehistoric pottery (both were too worn for any identification beyond prehistoric). Two lithic pieces were also found in different pits; a hollow-based point (likely Late Neolithic in date) and a serrated piece (possibly Neolithic - Early Bronze Age). Other small flint fragments were found from the samples taken, but can only be broadly dated to th Neolithic- Iron Age. <1>

Sources/Archives (1)



Grid reference Centred NH 9014 5686 (48m by 34m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH95NW
Civil Parish NAIRN
Geographical Area NAIRN

Finds (3)

  • SHERD (Neolithic to Late Iron Age - 4000 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Mesolithic to Late Iron Age - 8000 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • CREMATION (Early Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 1501 BC) + Sci.Date

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (1)

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