Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk

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Galson (3225)

Current Priority
2
East
143670
North
959470
Site Type
Settlement Mound
Period
Multi-phase

A large settlement mound on the coast edge, incorporating remains from the Iron Age to the medieval period.

A succession of structures, floors, hearths, midden deposits and long cists have been revealed, investigated and destroyed by coastal erosion. This multi-phase site has been used for settlement and burials with a succession of structures, deposits and inhumations from the Iron Age onwards. The coastal face of the mound contains a sequence of layers and stone structures visible in the eroding section.

A recent geophysical survey of the area behind the coast edge revealed features which are thought to be Iron Age and Norse/medieval buildings up to 30m back from the current coast edge.

Finds recovered include bone and antler tools, rotary and saddle quern stones, a steatite cup, iron knife, clay loom weights, a weaving comb, a bronze pin, a 10th century coin and pottery including Iron Age, Norse and medieval types.

ShoreUPDATE September 2014 This is a composite ShoreUPDATE record reporting on 3 field visits in March 2013, June 2013 and September 2014. The photographs are labelled according to the date of the visit. This record [3225] incorporates the following Galson CZAS records: 3231, 3232, 3731, 3228, 3757, 3223, 3226, 3227, 3747. A sequence of dry-stone structures interspersed with layers of midden and blown sand are eroding from exposures in a sand mound developed upon the raised beach at Galson. The seaward face of the mound extends at least 130m E-W, and archaeological deposits can be seen in the upper 4m of the approx. 6m high coastal section. There have been a number of rescue and recording interventions at the site over the last 100 years. In summary: 16 burials from a long cist cemetery spanning the 1st to 6th century AD have been recorded; and numerous drystone structures which appear to be clustered in 2 periods: 3rd to 7th centuries AD and the 9th to 12th centuries AD have been recorded. The structures are associated with extensive midden deposits. 15 radiocarbon dates have constructed this age model. The most useful document as a baseline for monitoring the section is an unpublished report by CFA Archaeology Ltd: Tim Neighbour and Mike Church, 2001, The eroding settlement and Iron Age cemetery at Galson, Isle of Lewis: Erosion Face Recording and Geophysical Survey. There are two main areas of instability in the face of the coastal section, and it is from these exposures that archaeological deposits are eroding. This appears to have been the case over the last 40 years. The instability of the exposures varies from season to season, following storm events - and according to how accessible the site is to sheep. Stock erosion is probably the most important continuous factor in determining the stability of the section and the rate of erosion of the archaeology. Over the 6 years that SCAPE have been visiting the site (2009 - 2014) the condition of the unstable areas have waxed and waned according to the factors mentioned above. There is certainly incremental ongoing damage to archaeological deposits, but these tend to be episodic and the general pattern is one of exposure, re-stabilisation, re-exposure and so on. As far as can be determined, structures and deposits visible in the eroding face can be equated with remains that have been previously recorded.

ShoreUPDATE May 2016 Lower half of the mound more eroded than seen in previous visits, exposing raised beach deposits, these account for at least half the height of the mound. Archaeological structures and deposits overlying the raised beach appear to be in a similar condition as previously seen, i.e. discrete areas of erosion interspersed by more stable vegetated slope. Rabbits are the main cause of damage.

Condition and current recommendations:

Condition
Site: Eroding: Matrix: Eroding
Action
Visit - check condition; characterise site and obtain dating evidence ;
Survey site - using several techniques to characterise site

Over to you...

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Record NB45NW02.00 on map in Coastal Erosion Assessment, Lewis, 1997

Other records:

NMRS
4357
SMR
MWE4357

ShoreUpdates

1 ShoreUpdate accepted and 0 pending.

Click on an update to expand it.

7th January, 2015 by training1
Survey Information
User:
training1
Date:
Jan. 7, 2015
Tidal state:
mid
Site located?:
Yes
Condition Information
Proximity to coast edge:
coast edge
Coastally eroding?:
active sea erosion; has eroded in the past
Is there a coastal defence?:
no
Other threats?:
stock erosion; animal burrows
Description:

ShoreUPDATE September 2014

This is a composite ShoreUPDATE record reporting on 3 field visits in March 2013, June 2013 and September 2014. The photographs are labelled according to the date of the visit.

This record [3225] incorporates the following Galson CZAS records: 3231, 3232, 3731, 3228, 3757, 3223, 3226, 3227, 3747.

A sequence of dry-stone structures interspersed with layers of midden and blown sand are eroding from exposures in a sand mound developed upon the raised beach at Galson. The seaward face of the mound extends at least 130m E-W, and archaeological deposits can be seen in the upper 4m of the approx. 6m high coastal section.

There have been a number of rescue and recording interventions at the site over the last 100 years. In summary: 16 burials from a long cist cemetery spanning the 1st to 6th century AD have been recorded; and numerous drystone structures which appear to be clustered in 2 periods: 3rd to 7th centuries AD and the 9th to 12th centuries AD have been recorded. The structures are associated with extensive midden deposits. 15 radiocarbon dates have constructed this age model.

The most useful document as a baseline for monitoring the section is an unpublished report by CFA Archaeology Ltd: Tim Neighbour and Mike Church, 2001, The eroding settlement and Iron Age cemetery at Galson, Isle of Lewis: Erosion Face Recording and Geophysical Survey.

There are two main areas of instability in the face of the coastal section, and it is from these exposures that archaeological deposits are eroding. This appears to have been the case over the last 40 years. The instability of the exposures varies from season to season, following storm events - and according to how accessible the site is to sheep. Stock erosion is probably the most important continuous factor in determining the stability of the section and the rate of erosion of the archaeology.

Over the 6 years that SCAPE have been visiting the site (2009 - 2014) the condition of the unstable areas have waxed and waned according to the factors mentioned above. There is certainly incremental ongoing damage to archaeological deposits, but these tend to be episodic and the general pattern is one of exposure, re-stabilisation, re-exposure and so on.

As far as can be determined, structures and deposits visible in the eroding face can be equated with remains that have been previously recorded.

ShoreUPDATE May 2016 Lower half of the mound more eroded than seen in previous visits, exposing raised beach deposits, these account for at least half the height of the mound. Archaeological structures and deposits overlying the raised beach appear to be in a similar condition as previously seen, i.e. discrete areas of erosion interspersed by more stable vegetated slope. Rabbits are the main cause of damage.

Management Information
How visible are the remains? (above ground):
not visible
How visible are the remains? (in section):
limited visibility in section
How accessibile is the site?:
easily accessible- no restrictions
The site is:
is well known; is well visited
Comments and recommendations
Recommendations:

There is a need for an accurate ortho-rectified photographic record of the section face as a baseline for future monitoring and to compare with previous records. A drone or pole photogrammetric survey should be carried out as a matter of urgency. In the far east of the exposed section, a number of dry-stone structures recorded in the CFA erosion face recording have not been radiocarbon dated. The stratigraphy is not clear enough to assign them to the Iron Age or Norse/Medieval phase of activity. If suitable deposits survive, it would be useful to date these structures.

Retain Priority 1. Regular monitoring should be implemented. Stock should continue to be excluded from the site.