7.3.4 Caves and Rock Shelters

SiteAreaDatingsLab Ref CommentsSource
Caird’s CaveER400–200 BC;
AD 220–390
Occupation deposit. Later re-use in early medieval period for boneworkingMHG8855; Anderson-Whymark 2011
Learnie 1BERAD 257–414SUERC-90301Multi-period use. Awaiting publicationBirch and Peteranna 2019; Rosemarkie Caves Project Website; Case Study: Rosemarkie Caves Project
Learnie3CERAD 132–328SUERC-50308Multi-period use. Awaiting publicationRosemarkie Caves Project Website; Steven Birch pers. comm; Case Study: Rosemarkie Caves Project
Three Peaks CaveERAD 85–243SUERC-63371Awaiting publicationRosemarkie Caves Project Website ; Steven Birch pers. comm; Case Study: Rosemarkie Caves Project
Allt na CricheWR342–1 BC;
187 BC–AD 25
Test pitting of area with several rock shelters and middens, showing multi-period useMHG37252; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, site SFS68
Camusteel 2WR752–261 BCAA-50681Test pitting at cave with midden showing multi-period useMHG37291; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, site SFS77
Creag Na H-UamhaWR365–62 BCAA-50681Test pitting at cave with midden showing multi-period useMHG37315; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, site SFS49
Crowlin 1WRAD 128–333OxA-9251Test pitting at multi-period rock shelter with middenMHG34256; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, site SFS2
Toscaig 2WR386–118 BC; 342–1 BC;
171 BC–AD 21
Test pitting at cave with midden showing long period of use in Iron Age. Good preservation, including bone, possibly suggesting processing of animal carcasses.MHG38820; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, site SFS20
An CorranSkye336–78 BCAA-29312A rock shelter and midden with long use, from Mesolithic onwards. Iron Age dates is from a bone point.MHG6497; Saville et al 2012; Case Study: An Corran, Skye
Uamh an Eich Bhric, FiscavaigSkyeA number of dates showing occupation c. AD 50–150Remote rockshelter and midden with good excavation. Metalworking, bone and leather working. Awaiting publicationMHG51768; Wildgoose and Birch 2009; High Pasture Cave Website
High Pasture CaveSkyeVarious datesImportant ritual site, discussed in 7.6. Awaiting publicationMHG32043; Birch et al forthcoming High Pasture Cave Website ; Case Study: High Pasture Cave
Uamh an Dòbhrain (NM 5609 9977)Skye360–90 BC;
AD 17–205
Cave and extensive midden, with long use. Limited excavation. Awaiting final reportWildgoose 2014; Hardy and Estevez 2014
Camas Daraich (Camas Beach)Skye696–387 BCGU-26555Midden near rockshelter with occupation evidence from Mesolithic onwardsHardy and Estevez 2014
Loch a Sguirr 1
Skye176 BC–AD 26  OxA-9254Test pitting at two adjacent rock shelters with middens, Loch a Sguirr 1 with radiocarbon date was mainly Mesolithic but also Iron Age activity. MHG58707; MHG35897; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, SFS8, SFS18
Table 7.5  Dated Iron Age use of Highland caves
All dates cal at 95.4% probability. For full details of dates, see Datasheet 2.1

Caves and rock shelters continued to be occupied in the Iron Age, though not all are used for the same purposes. Coastal caves predominate, and include evidence of craft activity and unspecified use. High Pasture Cave, however, is inland and was a ritual site (see 7.6; Case Study High Pasture Cave). It is striking how much of our information for the Iron Age (and other periods) cave use is based on the Scotland’s First Settlers project (which consisted predominantly of test pitting to obtain dating evidence) and the ongoing Rosemarkie Caves Project. Without these two projects, there would be little data indeed. These projects show the value of targeting further cave sites. Both projects also show the multiperiod use of caves in the Highlands. The Rosemarkie Caves Project demonstrates the need for full excavation; if only test pitting had occurred, important evidence would have been missed (Steven Birch pers comm). Uamh an Eich Bhric, Fiscavaig on Skye (MHG51768) is one of the few sites thus far to have complete excavation, though some information has been lost to coastal erosion. It was an interesting site with industrial activity and evidence of exotic connections including the presence of Roman finds despite the site’s remote location, with activity taking place in a short time frame (Wildgoose and Birch 2009). The final report is awaited.

The rock shelter at Uamh an Eich Bhric, Fiskavaig, Skye. ©Steven Birch
A rotary quern discovered during excavations at the rock shelter at Uamh an Eich Bhric, Fiskavaig. Skye ©Steven Birch


Case Study: High Pasture Cave

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