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Later prehistoric settlement: the beginnings

A view of the excavations at Cladh Hallan

A view of the excavations at Cladh Hallan

The later prehistoric sequence on the machair begins in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age and a small number of substantial settlements have been identified scattered along the length of the island, including one at Sligeanach test pitted by the Cardiff team (63).

The most thoroughly explored of these locations is the site at Cladh Hallan , which has been the subject of intensive excavation by Mike Parker Pearson and Jacqui Mulville (36). The main excavation area exposed a row of four circular houses surrounded by a large area of midden and ancillary activity areas. The three excavated houses face east or south east and appear to be constructed at the same time. The central house has a lengthy occupation and seven separate floor levels have been identified all of which contain important artefactual evidence for the use of the building. In contrast the other houses have only two and three floors and appear to have gone out of use well before the abandonment of the central house.

All the houses had foundation burials of human skeletons beneath their primary floors and several of these burials have been identified as ‘mummies’ (61; 62). The final phase of occupation on the settlement included the construction of two double-celled houses. One of these was built on the edge of the main settlement and the other was in a separate location to the north. Neither house was very well preserved.

Cladh Hallan has produced a substantial assemblage of undecorated ceramics and a massive assemblage of animal bones which will provide a detailed picture of the economy of the site. More surprisingly several bronze objects have also been recovered including chisels, fragments of bracelets and a gold-plated hair ring. There is also evidence for bronze casting and metalworking that includes bronze spills and moulds for disc headed pins and Ewart Park swords. These finds demonstrate that the occupants were linked to networks that cover mainland Britain, Ireland and the continent and that the islands were very well connected in the Bronze Age.

A plan of the main area of excavation at Cladh Hallan showing the location of the human burials  61.0 Kb