30Km Field Walk from Stockinish to Rodel

I happened upon this page http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/library/greylit/details.cfm?ID=4337 which records the findings of this event.

If you click on the DOC in the first link, then the document will download and you can read details of the 50 new sites that were discovered during the five days of this survey.

The JPEG links each open a (zoomable) map showing the new locations (indicated by a Red Star) and sites & monuments already recorded – SMRs – (indicated by a blue lozenge) at a very large (1:2 500?) scale.

This is an example of an Unpublished Fieldwork Report from the Grey Literature Library of the Archaeology Data Service – ADS – http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/
They have a Beta Test site (Registration & Firefox Browser preferred) at http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/ which may be of interest too.

There is plenty to explore and I found the Map Search facility particularly enjoyable to explore.



You will have to forgive me for dancing a metaphorical jig upon discovering this document online at the

Archaeology Data Service
Department of Archaeology 
University of York
King’s Manor
York YO1 7EP

Proceedings of the Society, April 10, 1876

This paper from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland is to be found in Volume 11 of their Proceedings and this is the link to the PDF file where you can read the original document.

In his paper, Fred Thomas explores in great detail the Norse origins of the placenames of the isles and even lists the number of people with each surname found in North Uist & Harris.
(This gave me quite a surprise for he counts 46 Kerr folk on Harris in, presumably, 1876 yet the censuses of 1871 & 1881 returned merely 37 and 27 respectively whilst that of 1861 showed 56? A check of other names suggests that he used the 1861 Census figures for his table (he earlier alludes to this with respect to Lewis) and that ’46’ was simply a mis-transcription of the ’56’ then present.)

But I digress, this paper by the retired 60 year-old is a fascinating read and certainly the most thorough account of the placenames of Harris that I have yet found – and it’s only 135 years old!

(Source: As cited above – from the Archaeology Data Service (Copyright Statement) )

Sound of Harris – High Resolution Seabed & Biotope Maps

My fascination with this particular expanse of water shows no sign of ebbing so I was delighted to discover two new (to me!) aspects that have been mapped:

NetSurvey’s High Resolution Seabed Mapping is stunning in its detail and especially interesting as it extends close to the Harris coast between Rodel & Strond.

The oblique view (3rd image from the left ) indicates how Port Eisgein offers the only haven in the South-East corner and suggests to me a site ripe for marine archaeology to explore.

Scottish National Heritage supply us with this PDFon Biotope mapping which is a highly technical document that I do not pretend to completely comprehend but which includes many interesting & attractive maps.

Finally, I heard today from Mapyx QUO that on the 28th of February they are releasing digital versions of UK Hydrographic Maps. No prices or other details have been announced but this is a welcome addition to their collection which is already an excellent and affordable mapping resource.


Of Sea-Levels & Archaeology

One of the questions that has long been of interest to me is that of the changing coastline of the Western Isles due to variations in sea-level over time.

Happily, and serendipitously, the article on Harris that is the subject of my previous post has a map indicating the projected coastline as it was about 12,000 years ago. This map (Figure 9 in the article) comes from:

Wickham-Jones, C.R and Dawson, S (2006)
The scope of Strategic Environmental Assessment of North Sea Area SEA7 with regard to prehistoric and early historic archaeological remains, Strategic Environmental Assessment Programme report,
London: UK Department of Trade and Industry

Fortunately, this report is available from the Department of Energy & Climate Change (http://www.offshore-sea.org.uk/site/) .
The download is :http://www.offshore-sea.org.uk/consultations/SEA_7/SEA7_PreArchaeology_CWJ.pdf

It is a complex and comprehensive document but a glance at Figure 2.11, showing the expanding coastline of the isles at 10m intervals of dropping sea-levels, gives an indication of how crucial sea-level changes are in understanding the story of the isles.

I have only just found this article (itself lying submerged in an unexpected location!) but thought it to be of sufficient interest to bring it to your attention immediately.


Shima – The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures

I came across this publication when performing a search for articles about the archaeology of Harris.

It is a biannual online publication, http://www.shimajournal.org/ , which is produced in bound form annually.

The article ‘Defining the Archaeological Resource on the Isle of Harris’ by Colls & Hunter is in the current edition (Vol 4, No 2) which probably explains why my previous searches had failed to find it!

I would urge you to read the article in its entirety for it not only explains the present state of knowledge regarding the archaeology of Harris but also why the island has, largely speaking, been neglected.

The good news is that the survey upon which the article is focussed suggests that Harris is stuffed full of hidden treasures that may one day reveal the complex history of the Western Isles in greater detail.

One day…

A Harris House Interior of 1787

In an earlier piece on ‘The Bee’ I said that there were numerous small details that I wished to return to. One such is contained on page 285 where we read:

In the house where the deer was brought to the party, were found most of the utensils used in the Hebrides for agriculture and domestic use. A chasscroomb for tilling the ground by manual labour, a straight spade for digging it, a rustil or sharp piece of iron for cutting the furrows, a sack made of straw for holding corn, a straw carpet for spreading it upon, a quearn or hand mill for grinding it, an iron pot for boiling their victuals; the fire-place in the middle of the house, with dogs, cats, ducks, and poultry surrounding the fire. The mistress of the house, a decent lady, had never seen a growing tree.
” You are a native of this island, madam?”
‘ By no means,.. I came to it on my marriage; but I came from the isle of Sky, and, never saw any thing larger grow, than a broom bush.’
” From whence came the trees that make the roof of your house?”
‘From the woods.’
” What woods?”
‘The woods of Assynt to be sure.’

Our author, the mysterious ‘Piscator’, provides an excellent impression of the interior of this house somewhere near Tarbert and his exchange with the lady of the house is also revealing. She originated from ‘Sky’ but came to Harris upon getting married, thought whether her husband was a native or not is unclear. Regardless, she serves as a reminder of the late Captain Macleod’s developments on the island and his introduction of incomers to help facilitate them.
In 1787 ‘Piscator’ (probably John Knox) and his fellows from the British Fisheries Society caught these developments at what would prove to be their zenith for only  three years later the Captain was deceased (thus the 1792 account in ‘The Bee’ containing posthumous tributes to him) and his death, followed by that of the Kelp industry, sealed the fate of the island and left it to be plundered by the Clearing sheep-farmers.

The Bee, or Literary Weekly Intelligencer,

Original Pieces and Selections from Performances of Merit, Foreign and Domestic

A Work Calculated to Disseminate Useful Knowledge among
All Ranks of People at a Small Expence
By James Anderson
Vol 8, p285 1792