Finds and Results
Findings, results and discussions are set out in full in the Final Report.
Final report available to download
A pdf version of the full project report is now available to download.
Please see Radiocarbon Results for the c14
RESULTS: Loch Raa Hut Circle, Achiltibuie
The results from the first of the six round houses to be investigated are
encouraging with hearths and a well-defined wall section being exposed and
Trench 1, laid out just off the centre of the structure produced a stack
of 3 hearths with associated ash and charcoal deposits. The earliest hearth also
had an associated stone lined tank – a small, well preserved feature.
Trench 2, placed across an upstanding section of walling revealed a
stone-built house wall some two meters thick, constructed with inner and outer
laid faces retaining an earth and rubble core.
There were no small finds other than nice examples of fragmented pot-boilers, a
possible quartz tool and two small fragments which may be pottery.
Charcoal samples were collected from all contexts for C14 dating and soil
samples were collected for environmental analysis.
RESULTS: Rhue, Ullapool
The 14th of May saw the commencement of the second of the six proposed round
house excavations. Results were interesting, if less spectacular than the 1st
excavation – with a possible hearth/post-pad slab found within the structure and
the lower courses of a collapsed wall revealed.
Trench 1, laid out just of centre within the structure revealed a large
stone slab set directly on the natural. The slab showed no indication of heat
but was surrounded and part overrun by a black, charcoal rich, occupation
Trench 2, placed across a well preserved section of turf bank, revealed a
tumbled stone wall with the inner face surviving 4 courses high. The outer face
had tumbled down the slope.
Small finds included a nice pebble polisher from the occupation horizon and a
pebble hammer and much used pebble anvil from the tumbled wall core. The last
two perhaps indicating earlier occupation in the vicinity.
Charcoal samples were taken for C.14 dating and soil samples for environmental
A spell of fine June weather provided perfect conditions for the excavation of
the third round house in the ‘WEDIGS’ program. This site, which sits on a level
platform on the south-west slope of Torr na h-Ulaidhe, is somewhat exposed to
poor weather but has spectacular views over Loch Gairloch.
Once again results were interesting and in part quite different to the previous
Trench 1, placed just to the south-east of the centre of the site revealed 3
levels of human activity. Removal of the turf exposed an area of well laid,
stone slab, paving possibly related to the remains of a small rectangular (shieling
type) structure lying immediately to the north of the trench. Sealed beneath
this paving was an area of burning so intense that the underlying earth had been
reddened to a considerable depth with closely related stones also heavily
reddened. Removal of the burnt level revealed a quadrant (in the NE corner of
the trench) of a shallow scoop in the natural subsoil containing a dark char
There were no associated finds. Soil and charcoal samples were taken from all
Trench 2, placed across a well preserved section of wall on the southern side of
the site revealed the monumental foundations of a 2 meter wide wall consisting
of massive boulder faces with a rubble and soil core. This wall, judging by the
amount of collapsed rubble removed would have stood circa 1.5 meters high.
Trench 2 extended some 2 meters towards the centre of the site and at no point
was an occupation surface or any evidence of activity encountered. This absence
of evidence, although not conclusive, and the massive area of burning in the
centre raises the possibility that this site was not a round house, but served
some other purpose.
A single find (a pebble hammer/rubber) was recovered from the rubble fill of the
wall perhaps indicating the presence of an earlier site close by. Soil and
charcoal samples were again taken from all levels. A series of core samples was
taken from within and around the site for magnetic susceptibility and phosphate
The excavation of the fourth round house in the six excavation program saw the
return of normal summer weather with rain, wind and midges being the order of
the day. This did not deter the hardy project diggers with 15 volunteers turning
up for the weeks digging.
Results were again interesting with the fourth completely different site being
revealed. The site proved to be two period with the later phase overlying the
Trench 1, laid out just off centre within the structure revealed a quadrant of a
rubble-stone hearth with much reddened stone surrounded by areas of char and
ash. The rake-out from the fire spread across a compacted sandy earth floor
forming a well defined, charcoal rich, occupation horizon.
Below this occupation was a layer of clean sand (levelling) which sealed an
earlier, and similar, occupation horizon which lay directly on the levelled
summit of a 350mm deep sand dune.
Trench 2 was placed across a well preserved section of stone wall, revealing a
tumbled stone wall with an inner face comprised of laid boulders and slabs. The
later phase of occupation butted up to the foot of this wall. The earlier phase
of occupation however ran under this wall to butt up to the remains of an
earlier wall consisting of orthostatic facing stones with rubble fill. The later
phase round house appeared to be built within the earlier phase.
Three further trenches were excavated during the weeks work.
Trench 3: A small soil profile trench outwith the round-house amongst lazy-bed
Trench 4: A trench across what appeared to be the entrance to the later phase
Trench 5: Across a related boundary wall.
Trench 3 provided a profile of the post glacial soils and an old ground surface
sealed below the lazy-bed cultivation.
Trench 4 showed that if the entrance to the later phase house was in this
quadrant it had subsequently been destroyed by later farming/crofting activity.
A well defined post hole was however recorded, sealed below the later phase wall
and associated with the earlier phase occupation.
Trench 5 provided a plan and section of a boulder boundary possibly contemporary
with one of the phases of occupation.
Small finds included several pebble hammers and many fragments of pebble
Charcoal samples were taken for C.14 dating and soil samples for environmental
RESULTS: Strathain 1 & 2
The excavation of the fifth round house in the Wee Dig program found the
excavation team on an exposed hillside in An Strathain, a small glen some 3km to
the north of Ullapool.
The results were, once again, interesting with the fifth completely different
type of monument being revealed. The site proved to be a recessed platform with
no apparent associated structure.
Because of the shallow nature of the deposits and lack of result associated with
the initial platform, a second platform in the group of three was tested with
Trench 1, laid out just off centre within the structure revealed a shallow and
very greasy black horizon lying immediately below a peaty turf and resting on
the local clay natural. There were no features, other than a small arc of
stones, or finds, associated with this horizon. Several small, water worn, white
quartz pebbles were associated with the black horizon.
Trench 2 was placed across what appeared to be a collapsed wall on the east side
of the circle. This proved to be a random pile of stone which overlay the greasy
black context and therefore post dated it. A random collection of flat slabs lay
at the western end of the trench. There were no finds at all. Once again white
quartz pebbles were found in the black horizon.
Two further trenches were excavated during the work on Site SRA1.
Trench 3: A 1m square soil profile trench some 10m to the SW the platform.
Trench 4: A second soil profile trench some 15m to the W of the platform.
Trench 3 & 4 The soil profiles of trenches 3 and 4 almost exactly matched that
of trench 1 with a shallow, greasy, black horizon lying immediately below the
Site SRA 2 lay some 100m to the north and upslope of SRA 1 and appeared to be
identical to SRA1. A single trench was excavated from just outwith the front of
the platform to the centre.
Trench 5 demonstrated that the platform had been revetted at the front with a
five course wall behind which was a fill of small stones. A cut had then been
made into the hill slope to create the platform. The greasy black horizon was
again present but once again, other than the black horizon, there was no
evidence of occupation. At some point after the abandonment of the platform (a
layer of peaty soil had formed) a small peat fire had been built at the centre
of the platform.
There were no small finds associated with either platform.
Soil samples were taken for later analysis. No charcoal samples were recovered.
The final excavation of the Wedig Project took place between the 22nd and 26th
of October during a week when the weather turned from a beautiful late summer to
an early taste of winter. The site chosen was a small, (8m overall diameter),
stone built structure with an extended south-eastern entrance. A total of four
trenches were excavated; one across the round house, two soil trenches and a
small test trench within a second site some 25 meters to the north-east.
Trench 1 was placed across the round-house on a north to south alignment
revealing a fine orthostat faced wall with a boulder fill on the north and south
sides. A well built buttress supported the downhill north wall. A compacted clay
floor butted up to the inner face of the walls. An oval hearth area, (char
filled black earth), lay roughly central to the interior space. A second hearth,
constructed of stone, which post dated the clay floor lay against the inner face
of the northern wall.
Lifting of the clay floor revealed a truncated posthole which still retained its
post pad some 1.25m in from the southern inner wall face. A second truncated
post hole was found 1.25 inside the northern inner wall face. Removal of the
wall stones showed that the stone wall was a secondary feature and that an earth
walled round house pre-dated the stone structure.
Finds included a broken sandstone rubber which had been used as a pot boiler, a
pebble hammer and a quartz flake.
Trench 2: A 1m square soil profile trench some 10m to the NE the round-house.
Trench 3: A second soil profile trench some 10m to the W of the round-house.
Trench 4 was placed within a circular stone setting some 25m down slope of the
round-house. This structure was named Achtercairn 3. Excavation showed that the
stone setting was not a structured wall but a surface scatter of boulders
encircling an area of red loamy soil. Within the stone setting was a small
cobbled area, which showed no signs of burning, associated with charcoal ,
concentrated in a possible hearth area, and an assemblage of quartz fragments.
Further investigation in 2014 yielded a charcoal spread from the hearth area
under and beyond the boulder wall. Dates were obtained from these areas.
Achtercairn 2 started life as an earth banked round-house with a ring of posts
some 1.5m inside the bank supporting a ring beam as part of the roof structure.
This earth structure was then replaced with a stone walled round-house, a new
floor was inserted (truncating the earlier post holes) and a central hearth
built. No evidence for a ring of posts was found within the trench for this
secondary structure. At some point after the abandonment of the stone-built
house a hearth was built and used within the structure. The position of this
last feature indicates that there was probably no longer a roof on the
Soil samples were taken for later analysis. Charcoals were collected for C.14
RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS
The finds, charcoal samples and soil samples were all handed over to AOC
Archaeology for post-excavation analysis.
The charcoal found was passed on to SUERC (Scottish Universities Environment
Research Council) for carbon-dating.
The results are given under the radiocarbon tab; they are accurate within 30
years. Dates ranged from 2769 BC to 275 AD.
Stone Tools. Selected finds were examined by AOC Archaeology, who
(1) A small number of general purpose pebble stone tools with pitting due to
percussion damage, indicating use for pounding: i.e. hammers.
(2) At Achnahaird a possible polisher.
(3) At Rhue a heavy duty hammer which was also used as an anvil or
(1) At Loch Raa a rim fragment of steatite-tempered pottery (clay mixed with
pieces of soapstone) whose shape suggests a shouldered vessel, with rim diameter
around 160mm; comparison with similar shouldered vessels in Atlantic Scotland
shows that the date is consistent with the Early Iron Age date from the upper
(2) Also at Loch Raa a damaged rim fragment made of steatite; the shape of the
external surface suggests a vessel such as a small cup or bowl with diameter
around 60mm. (Steatite or soapstone is found not too far away, at Achmelvich.)
An assemblage of 71 chipped quartz pieces was recovered from the small Neolithic
stone circle beside Achtercairn 2. An assemblage of 71 chipped quartz pieces was
recovered from Achhtercairn 3. The pieces suggest a rather unskilled
technique using a variety of reduction (shaping) techniques. Most pieces were
debris (chips or flakes). There was one manufactured tool, a borer with a strong
point, formed on a thick flake — used, for example, for making holes in leather.
Excerpts from the “Initial Conclusions” in the Data Structure Report (DSR),
by Martin Wildgoose and Anna Welti (the final report is to follow):
• The initial results of the Wee Digs Project, together with those from the
study on Skye, have demonstrated that the terms Hut Circle and Roundhouse, both
implying living accommodation, are perhaps misnomers as it would appear that not
all of these circular features were lived in. Better perhaps to call them
Circular Structures as this removes the suggestion of residence and allows for
multiplicity of function.
• Of the 6 roundhouses studied, 3 of the 4 which appear to have been habitations
had entrances which faced south-east regardless of local terrain or aspect; the
position of the entrance at Achnahaird could not be identified. The only other
structure where the entrance could be positively identified, Achtercairn 1, had
an unusually wide entrance which faced to the south-west. The work on this site
suggested that it had not been constructed as a habitation but perhaps served
some other purpose. This result is similar
to that from the work carried out on Skye during the Landscape Analysis at High
Pasture Cave, where all structures with entrances facing other than to the
south-east showed no evidence of occupation and appeared to have served some
• The excavation of these structures has highlighted the fact that bracken is a
major current and future threat to the archaeology of Scotland.
• The provision of plentiful amounts of cake is essential for the running of a
happy and successful excavation project.
Contact Anna Welti if you wish to discuss the