MHG7638 - Rock shelter & midden, Allt Na H-Uamha


Rock shelter and midden.

Type and Period (2)

  • ROCK SHELTER (Mesolithic to 19th Century - 8000 BC? to 1900 AD?)
  • MIDDEN (Mesolithic to Late Iron Age - 8000 BC? to 560 AD?)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

NG76SE 1 767 648
The site lies at approximately 85m OD on NW-facing slope of the valley of Allt na h-Uamha, about 1.3km NW of youth hostel at Craig. It is situated at base of vertical crags which comprise the southerly side of valley at this point, just above level of the Allt na h-Uamha itself, which is mostly invisible as it runs through an area composed mainly of large tumbled boulders. The shelter consists principally of 3 enormous boulders, two of which support the third - a massive rectangular piece measuring some 4.5m in width above the 'entrance'; perhaps 2m deep at front; and about 4m from front to back. Its angle of rest is about 30. The space thus created is substantial, and diminishes in height from about 2m at the 'entrance' to 30cm or so at the back of the wedge. The internal space widens behind the two propping boulders to full width of the capping boulder, and was quite dry at the time of visit. Immediately in front of shelter is an area c3m diameter of bright green, short cropped grass through which several other large boulders protrude. It is, essentially, a mound of crushed and broken shell fragments clearly dumped in front of entrance to shelter, and covering boulders which lay strewn about area. The floor of the interior of the shelter is bare soil, with fragments of shell and bone visible; these superficial bones are probably modern, but there might be undisturbed archaeological material at a lower level. <1>

This site was investigated by Scotland's First Settlers Project in 2000. It was described as a north-west-facing boulder shelter with a large shell midden in front, and was visited on three occasions. During the first visit, two shovel pits (300mm×300mm) were dug in the shell midden and in the centre of the rockshelter to attempt to assess nature of the midden. Shovel pits were stopped at 330 and 320mm deep after revealing that the midden was 98% limpet shell. Finds included small fragments of bone. Based on the interpretation that the midden might well be early, it was decided to return to excavate a single test pit. During a second visit, one test pit was dug in the shell midden just outside the rockshelter overhang (see Illustrations 93, left & 94, right). A third visit took place during which intensive surface survey within the shelter revealed flaked lithics. During this visit, a third shovel pit (SP3) was dug, in the boulder shelter. This extended to a depth of 620mm. Further lithics were encountered at the base of this shovel pit.
In total, there were eight lithic finds, all, with one possible exception (a flake that may be of baked mudstone), of chalcedonic silica. There were two debitage pieces; four regular flakes; and two small thumbnail scrapers. A bone tool, hammerstone 14 sherds of pottery, animal bone, shell and charcoal were also found.
The lithic assemblage suggests activity in early prehistory, while the pottery has been assigned to the Iron Age or later. The remains of domestic cattle suggest that activity here can have been no earlier than the introduction of this species to Britain, traditionally associated with the Neolithic. The limited butchery evidence suggests that some mammal processing or consumption took place at the site. Likewise, the range in fish size rules out the fish being derived from otter spraint deposits. <2>

The midden material within the shelter included animal bone, possibly worked into points but as previously noted possibly modern, burnt bone- possibly also modern although it would seem less likely, limpet, mussel and winkle shells, some burnt, fish vertebrae and lumps of charcoal. The material upon the surface seems to be a mixture of the eroding, underlying, in situ deposits and possibly more modern material, although nothing diagnostically modern was found. In addition to the space described in the SMR there was a further cavity, accessed from the back wall of the area, through a small, c.600mm wide by 400mm high aperture, which then opened up into an area roughly 3m long by 1.5m wide by 1m high. Although not entered, many shells were visible throughout and imply the area was also used in the mesolithic.
The limpet shells with what appears to be drilled holes were found in a distinct area of circa 500mm2 adjacent to the east wall of the main area of the shelter, and seemed to originate from the underlying in situ deposit which was extremely charcoal rich. <3>

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred NG 7669 6479 (20m by 20m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NG76SE
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY
Civil Parish GAIRLOCH

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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