MHG6497 - Mesolithic and later shell midden - An Corran, Skye


An important Mesolithic shell midden, also containing bones and stone tools. The site was discovered in 1993/4 during excavations in advance of rock-blasting.

Type and Period (2)

  • SHELL MIDDEN (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • ROCK SHELTER (Mesolithic to Early Iron Age - 8000 BC to 1 AD) + Sci.Date

Protected Status

Full Description

Immediately S of An Corran and on a ledge to the west of the road leading to Staffin slipway is a shell-midden (Patella Vulgata and Littorina Litorea) together with burnt bone. A flint point and a chert flake were picked from the surface.
Visited by R Miket 12 May 1988. <1>

Salvage investigation took place during December 1993/January 1994 of a ledge at the base of E-facing cliffs in advance of rock-blasting for road works. Disturbed upper levels contained the remains of numerous hearths and fires but the only datable finds were a mid 19th-century glass bottle and a bronze pin of Early Iron Age type. An underlying shell midden contained a very important Mesolithic assemblage of bone and lithic tools, as well as abundant faunal remains. A radiocarbon determination of 7590 +/- 90 BP (OxA-4994) has been obtained on one of the bevel-ended tools, made on a red deer bone. The lithic industry, using locally available silicious and basaltic materials, included the manufacture of microliths by microburin technique. About one-fifth of the rock-shelter deposits were examined, but the ledge itself has been preserved despite removal of the cliff. <2>

See link below to published 2012 report for detailed result of 1993-4 excavations and subsequent post-excavation work. The rock shelter was found to have contained a series of shell midden and other deposits with evidence for human occupation from Mesolithic and later periods. A total of 41 separate contexts were identified. Of these, 31 were recent or later prehistoric, the upper levels containing a series of hearths of recent date and an Iron Age copper-alloy pin. The lowest 10 layers were identified initially as Mesolithic on the basis of bone tool and lithic typology, but a series of 18 radiocarbon dates indicates they contain the residues of subsequent prehistoric activity as well. These layers consisted of several distinct areas ofmidden, below which there were two, possibly three, horizons which probably, based on the presence of broad blade microliths, represent Early Mesolithic activity. The midden layers also contained some human bones radiocarbon-dated to the Neolithic period. The rockshelter was located below an outcrop of baked mudstone and near a source of chalcedonic silica. Both these lithic raw materials were widely used during the Mesolithic as far away as the island of Rùm. <3>

See published 2012 report for a list of the 18 radiocarbon dates obtained from the site. Six dates were taken from bevel-ended tools, one from a bone point, five from human bones, two from pig, three from aurochs and one from an unspecified ruminant. The radiocarbon analyses make it clear that intermittent activity took place on the rockshelter throughout prehistory, from the Mesolithic the Iron Age. Stable Isotope analysis was also undertaken on the human bone, the result of which can be viewed in the report. <3>

Human remains from the site are within NMS collections. <4>

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred NG 4911 6849 (61m by 73m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NG46NE
Geographical Area SKYE AND LOCHALSH
Civil Parish KILMUIR

Finds (6)

  • FLAKE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 560 AD)
  • PIN (Early Iron Age - 550 BC to 1 AD)
  • POINT (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC) + Sci.Date
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • POINT (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (3)

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