Staffin archaeological excavation: Day 5 Diary

Fo fòid na tìme’ – Staffin Community Trust and the UHI Archaeology Institute have run a five-day archaeological excavation by Staffin Bay. It is the first excavation in Staffin for more than 20 years and SCT views the dig it as an important project, both culturally and economically, with the Staffin community at the heart of it. The excavation runs from Wednesday, September 9 to Monday, September 14. Local volunteers are participating, school pupils have been involved and there was a community open day on Saturday. The site may date back 8,000 years to the Mesolithic era when Scotland was inhabited by hunter-gatherers who lived off the wild resources of the land and sea. The Trust would like to thank the Garafad township and Kilmuir Estate for their permission to hold the excavation. Below are some images and a summary of the fourth day’s work written by UHI’s Dan Lee.

Day 5 Diary:

“A very breezy but sunny day helped us finish off the trench today. Apart from flints (worked chert, flint, mudstone etc), the only other artefact was a small piece of crescent moon-shaped burnt bone, found by volunteer Moira Forsyth during dry sieving. This came from the upper part of the dark layer which was inside but unrelated to the structure, and seems to have been deliberately worked. It could have been a toggle or bead. The dark layer inside the structure turned out to be two separate pockets of material in between the irregular surface of the bedrock. It contained very dense concentrations of flakes, debitage, some blades, cores and scrapers. The layer, which appears to have been a former humic topsoil, also contained burnt bone. This material appears to have accumulated over time in clefts in the rock as people sat there and worked stone. The trench was planned and the main section drawn, bringing a very productive few days to a close. The structure didn’t turn out to be domestic, and is likely to be medieval or post-medieval in date, but it seals some promising Mesolithic stone working debris and deposits. We have an interesting assemblage of lithics, a bone artefact and potentially some material to radiocarbon date. The excavations will certainly add to the Mesolithic story of Staffin Bay.

Many thanks from the UHI team to Dugald Ross and Hugh Ross (Staffin Community Trust), and to all the volunteers and school children who helped make the excavations possible and such a success.”

Footnote: The Staffin Community Trust would like to reiterate its thanks to the Garafad township and Kilmuir Estate for permission to host the excavation and the funding support from Highland Council and Interface. SCT would also like to thank the 10 people who volunteered during the project; Ella Liley, Anthony and Moira Forsyth, Gordon and Wendy Higgins, Simon Gilkes, Calum MacDonald, Angus MacDonald, Heather Keith and Lillian MacInnes and was grateful for the support of the local community during the dig. The visits from the pupils and staff of Staffin and Kilmuir primary schools was a particular highlight and more than 200 people, both locals and visitors, came to view the excavation during the five days. Watch this space for future archaeological projects.