Excavation Site 110 – more details

10 August 2011

Site 110

Site 110 plan

The site lies of the southern flank of Coom Rig and is at the base of a break of slope up hill and just above a less acute break of slope downhill, however the site itself lies on natural sloping ground of about 0.5m.

Upon discovery the site was seen as boulders and smaller stones disturbed across three furrows, initially the stones were thought to be from small cairns.

However excavation soon established that the stones were not cairns and formed a more or less single layer for the most part, although the lower side of the site appeared as a slight bank of stones measuring c 2m wide and by no more than 0.5m high, this was later shown to be the result of possible anthropogenic alteration of the sub strata

The general matrix of the site consisted of the following: a turf layer on peat up to 0.4m in maximum depth, this lay directly on the stones of the monument and where they were absent, on the old ground surface (ogs). The ogs was up to 250mm deep but more generally around 100mm and it overlay the entire site, covering an orange coloured natural till. The ogs consisted of a mixture of fragmented shale and small greywacke pebbles, all extremely weathered by leaching below the peat; they lay in a matrix of creamy coloured clayey soil, the clay content being derived from the leached stone in the ogs and the larger stones of the monument. Various cut features; small pits, were dug through the ogs and into the till.

Lying on and slightly within the ogs were the monument stones which had been gathered from the surrounding landscape and which for the most part were flat, but along with some sub angular rocks and boulders, were laid down as a single layer, only in a very few instances were stones seen to overlap and this may have happened since their original laying. The predominance of flat stones may have been a deliberate choice or may simply reflect that such stones are available on the hill side. Only a single boulder on the site could be seen to be natural in its location, it lay beneath and was surrounded by the ogs and the stone lay directly on top of the till.

Charcoal, sometimes in copious quantity lay over but not in the ogs for most of the site. In a hollow arc on the lower southern side of the site and adjacent the stones there, the charcoal was most dense and in one area it included a small quantity of tiny roundwood, which may be heather.

Eight post-holes mark a circular enclosure approximately six metres in diameter. Four forward post-holes represent the position of an entrance porch. Although shape and size suggest a bronze age structure, no Scottish parallels exist

The pits were cut through the ogs and into the till below, stone packers were used in at least six of the eight pits all of which make a near perfect circle of c5m in diameter; the spacing between the pits was uniformly 2m apart. The pits are interpreted as post holes for a circular structure, although whether it was roofed is uncertain. Pits on the east side and outwith the circle appeared to form an entrance and possibly indicate the position of a porch, the double and triple pits here may indicate there were replacement posts inserted. It is also possible that pits F7, F8 and F14 were replacement or reinforcing posts in the circle. A few other pits within the circle have no obvious purpose and some may be natural features, eg F13.
The only finds from this site were a single chert scraper and a clutch of chert debitage, all of uncertain date. The finds therefore offer no clues as to the date of the site, however, the abundance of charcoal which has been collected from various features will eventually be analysed and a radio carbon date will be obtained. We suspect a Bronze Age date but the function of the monument eludes us.

The stone setting appears to have been designated area of activity and has some similarity with other places on the hill we have so far investigated, nothing has been found below these stones which in this case were laid directly on the ogs, their purpose remains enigmatic as does the circular timber structure. A habitation is ruled out on the basis of small size and also lack of diagnostic finds and a burial site is similarly dismissed on the lack of suitable evidence. We wonder if the combination of stone platform (?) and timber building may have a mortuary purpose and, at this stage, if the building was roofed and was burned down to account for all the charcoal, since we found no evidence of a fire place.

We have a similar site just down hill to look at and we are hoping this one will shed some light on this mysterious site. However, currently we are back to the Mesolithic for yet another amazing location which is producing masses of assorted lithic, including numerous microliths and charcoal features are emerging, more of this exciting location soon.