MHG32043 - Uamh an Ard Achadh (High Pasture Cave)

Summary

Fieldwork carried out to date has revealed a site of later prehistoric date, focused on areas located both outside and within a natural cave. The discovery of a formalised entrance to the natural cave, connected with the underlying cave system, provides direct access to an underground stream that flows through over 320 metres of subterranean passages. The activities at the site display distinct ritual aspects including the burial of whole animal carcasses after butchery, the deposition of artefacts utilised in everyday life, human inhumations including infant and foetal burials combined with the bones of a foetal pig, and evidence of feasting.

Type and Period (1)

  • CAVE (Early Bronze Age to Late Iron Age - 2400 BC to 560 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

The cave is situated near Torrin in Skye. Archaeological material was disturbed in the cave and subsequently the cave has been surveyed and the threatened deposits recovered for analysis. The items recovered includes a concentration of pig bone, stone tools and a socketed iron axe/adze.
See Assoc. Docs. File for report and plans, by S Birch, 07/2003 <1>

Archaeological material was identified by Steven Birch within this cave in May 2002. The deposits had been disturbed by cavers and the sediments included animal bone, shellfish remains, charcoal, fire-cracked pebbles, coarse pebble tools, pottery and metalwork. The animal bones contained an unusually high proportion of wild boar/pig remains, some of which displayed evidence of butchery and processing. Around the mouth of the cave are structural remains including a roundhouse and a large U-shaped enclosure with associated dykes and further putative cell-like structures. It is possible that the cave may have been used as a 'souterrain' associated with this settlement. <2>

Archaeological rescue work within the cave and survey work of the surface remains is currently being undertaken by Birch/Wildgoose/Kozikowski. A short report of the ongoing work has been published in Teach an Tir (Spring 2004) is held in Assoc. Docs. <3>

NMRS Report: (23/04/2007 15:11:05)
NG51NE 83 5943 1971

(Location cited as NG 594 197). The first season of the High Pasture Cave Project between March and September 2004 included clearance of the main stream-way to the excavation site (60m down an underground river).
Fieldwork included detailed survey and site drawings of all surface structures, and excavation of a trial trench in the bone passage to assess the extent of the archaeological deposits.
The trial trench demonstrated that the cave had seen extensive use in both the Bronze and Iron Age, with two floor levels (granite slab and compacted gravel) indicating two intensive periods of use followed by periods of midden dumping. Two separate deposits of animal bone and a discrete periwinkle midden suggest deliberate deposition in the cave.
A cave morphology survey was also carried out, with samples removed for dating.
Finds include metalwork, worked antler and bone, carbonised cereals and seeds, decorated and plain pottery, worked stone and worked pumice. The animal bone assemblage is predominantly pig (80-90%) and shows evidence for butchering. There was also evidence for iron and copper smelting and working.
During a series of open days in September, locals and visitors to the island were shown around the site and taken on conducted tours through the cave system.
Sponsors: HS, Highland Council, Skye and Lochalsh Enterprise - Leader+, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Dualchas, Jansvans of Portree, Hitch-n-Hike, Stoney Cove Marine Trials.
S Birch and M Wildgoose 2004.

(Location of the cave entrance cited as NG 5943 1971: this is the major area of excavations).
Information from Simon Birch, 7 February 2006.

NG51NE 83 NG 594 197
Excavation; landscape project. Excavations at High Pasture Cave continued between March and October 2005 (DES 2004, 80-81), resulting in the discovery of 3.5m of Iron Age deposits lying within a natural depression in the former ground surface above the cave. These stratified deposits contained a series of related hearths and surrounded a fine stone-built stairwell. The stairwell would appear to give direct access to the cave, which lies some 5m below current ground level. The upper 1m of the stairwell (the only part excavated so far) contained the remains of at least four, and possibly five, Iron Age inhumations. Multiple deposits of quern fragments (saddle and rotary), pebble tools, bone/antler pins and animal bone were recovered from around the hearths and stairwell entrance.
Excavations also continued within the cave (Bone Passage), and a wide range of materials was recovered including animal and fish bone, shellfish remains, charred plant remains, metalworking residues, iron pins, bone and stone tools. See www.high-pasturecave.org. Excavations will continue in 2006.
Sponsors: HAS, Highland Council, Skye and Lochalsh Enterprise Leader+, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
S Birch and M Wildgoose 2005. <4>

Work is ongoing at this important site. Fieldwork carried out to date has revealed a site of later prehistoric date, focused on areas located both outside and within a natural cave. The discovery of a formalised entrance to the natural cave, connected with the underlying cave system, provides direct access to an underground stream that flows through over 320 metres of subterranean passages. The activities at the site display distinct ritual aspects including the burial of whole animal carcasses after butchery, the deposition of artefacts utilised in everyday life, human inhumations including infant and foetal burials combined with the bones of a foetal pig, and evidence of feasting. Full details can be found in the data structure reports linked to this record. <5>

A programme of radiocarbon dating has also been undertaken as part of the excavations at High Pasture Cave. These have been published in the excavation data structure reports which are available below.

Sources/Archives (12)

Map

Location

Grid reference Centred NG 5942 1973 (30m by 30m) (Buffered by site type)
Map sheet NG51NE
Geographical Area SKYE AND LOCHALSH
Civil Parish STRATH

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (15)

External Links (1)

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