Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk

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Weddell Point (5947)

Current Priority
2
East
347825
North
998649
Site Type
Buried Land Surface; Structure
Period
Indeterminate

Anthropogenic deposits are visible in a 25m long coastal exposure which has been cut into the sand dunes by marine erosion. The uppermost deposit visible in section is a 0.4m layer of wind-blown sand. Beneath this, a portion of walling, up to 13 courses/1m high, runs parallel with the section face for 1.9m, before curving outwards towards its W end. The W end of the wall is formed from several orthostatic blocks - the remainder of the structure at this end has been lost to the sea. Further to the W, a deposit of loose stones may represent collapsed walling, this sits over an old ground surface and shell-rich deposits. The old ground surface is visible beneath the E end of the wall also - the terminus of this wall is obscured by slumped sand deposits. Several small fragments of iron were noted amongst the deposits in section, but these may be intrusive. No features or deposits of an archaeological nature were noted in the field adjacent to the shore, although the depth of blown sand is such that any remains are likely to be deeply buried. The deposits are tentatively interpreted as part of the interior wall face of a curvilinear structure. Local tradition holds that there is a burial ground in this area. It is recorded that in about 1960 part of a grave, containing two individuals and covered with a slab, was found eroding from the shoreline (ND 49 NE 11). Human bones have been seen in the erosion face on occasion, and several were noted by OS surveyors in 1973. A local man, Mr. Laird of Weddell, encountered traces of an indeterminate building whist digging in this area. The frequency with which deposits have been noted in this area suggests that there are substantial buried remains in the area. The deposits found during this survey, if as is suggested, form part of a structure, may be part of the same structure as that found by Mr. Laird. Since his discovery was made whist digging, presumably in the field which lies adjacent to the shore, the remains now visible may be only beginning to erode. The presence of human burials (not seen during this survey) in close proximity to a structure may indicate the site of a chapel and burial ground of early (pre-Reformation) date.

Added by MGTS24. 10 January 2014: As now visible, this feature extends over 15 m or so (east west along the shore) and has two parts. At the west end is a 2.5 m long section of dry stone wall of 6 or 7 courses of small flat stones on two courses of large slabs under 0.3 m of turf, and is typical of dry stone walling in this area into the historic period. The base of this walling is at the high water mark and is being eroded at high tides. The walling appears to arc outwards towards the sea at the west end. The eastern component may be a separate feature, and is likely the main component previously reported here, and is separated from the walling detailed above by about 4 m. This eastern component is an 8-m-long section being actively eroded at high tide. It represents a low mound, rising approx. 2 m above the shingle. The upper 0.15 m is turf, below this 0.2 m of organically enriched sand, and below this o.2 m of blown sand. Below this is 0.6 m (at center of mound) of flat shingle mixed with organically enriched sand. In the lower 0.4 m or so the cavities are often filled with limpet shells and animal bone (scapula, jaw bones, ribs, foot bones: likely cattle and smaller mammals). My guess would be that this mound represents redeposited material. It is chaotic, full of voids, and there is rather too much stone for a typical midden. Some of the stone appears to be burnt and fire-cracked.

Condition and current recommendations:

Condition
Fair
Action
Visit - check condition; characterise site and obtain dating evidence ;
Survey site - using several techniques to characterise site ;
Excavate site - open area

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Record B14 on map Burray: Map 4 in Report on a Coastal Zone Assessment Survey of Orkney: Burra, Flotta, Graemsay, Hoy, S. Ronaldsay, 1997

Other records:

NMRS
9571
SMR
Unknown

ShoreUpdates

1 ShoreUpdate accepted and 0 pending.

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10th January, 2014 by mgts24
Survey Information
User:
mgts24
Date:
Jan. 10, 2014
Tidal state:
low
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?:
vegetation growth; animal burrows; water erosion (e.g. stream, etc)
Description:

Anthropogenic deposits are visible in a 25m long coastal exposure which has been cut into the sand dunes by marine erosion. The uppermost deposit visible in section is a 0.4m layer of wind-blown sand. Beneath this, a portion of walling, up to 13 courses/1m high, runs parallel with the section face for 1.9m, before curving outwards towards its W end. The W end of the wall is formed from several orthostatic blocks - the remainder of the structure at this end has been lost to the sea. Further to the W, a deposit of loose stones may represent collapsed walling, this sits over an old ground surface and shell-rich deposits. The old ground surface is visible beneath the E end of the wall also - the terminus of this wall is obscured by slumped sand deposits. Several small fragments of iron were noted amongst the deposits in section, but these may be intrusive. No features or deposits of an archaeological nature were noted in the field adjacent to the shore, although the depth of blown sand is such that any remains are likely to be deeply buried. The deposits are tentatively interpreted as part of the interior wall face of a curvilinear structure. Local tradition holds that there is a burial ground in this area. It is recorded that in about 1960 part of a grave, containing two individuals and covered with a slab, was found eroding from the shoreline (ND 49 NE 11). Human bones have been seen in the erosion face on occasion, and several were noted by OS surveyors in 1973. A local man, Mr. Laird of Weddell, encountered traces of an indeterminate building whist digging in this area. The frequency with which deposits have been noted in this area suggests that there are substantial buried remains in the area. The deposits found during this survey, if as is suggested, form part of a structure, may be part of the same structure as that found by Mr. Laird. Since his discovery was made whist digging, presumably in the field which lies adjacent to the shore, the remains now visible may be only beginning to erode. The presence of human burials (not seen during this survey) in close proximity to a structure may indicate the site of a chapel and burial ground of early (pre-Reformation) date.

Added by MGTS24. 10 January 2014: As now visible, this feature extends over 15 m or so (east west along the shore) and has two parts. At the west end is a 2.5 m long section of dry stone wall of 6 or 7 courses of small flat stones on two courses of large slabs under 0.3 m of turf, and is typical of dry stone walling in this area into the historic period. The base of this walling is at the high water mark and is being eroded at high tides. The walling appears to arc outwards towards the sea at the west end. The eastern component may be a separate feature, and is likely the main component previously reported here, and is separated from the walling detailed above by about 4 m. This eastern component is an 8-m-long section being actively eroded at high tide. It represents a low mound, rising approx. 2 m above the shingle. The upper 0.15 m is turf, below this 0.2 m of organically enriched sand, and below this o.2 m of blown sand. Below this is 0.6 m (at center of mound) of flat shingle mixed with organically enriched sand. In the lower 0.4 m or so the cavities are often filled with limpet shells and animal bone (scapula, jaw bones, ribs, foot bones: likely cattle and smaller mammals). My guess would be that this mound represents redeposited material. It is chaotic, full of voids, and there is rather too much stone for a typical midden. Some of the stone appears to be burnt and fire-cracked.

Management Information
How visible are the remains? (above ground):
not visible
How visible are the remains? (in section):
clearly visible in section
How accessibile is the site?:
accessible on foot (no footpath)
The site is:
don't know
Comments and recommendations
Comments:

This site is within several hundred meters of two brochs (IDs 5943 and 5946) a chambered cairn (ID 5944), and WW II coastal defenses (ID 5945). It is a very rich stretch of coast and could benefit from a 'landscape approach', perhaps with geophysics.

Recommendations:

It would be interesting to date this site and to peel back the turf above it to see whether there is much left of it inland, or whether this represents the last vestiges of a largely eroded monument. This might also help turn up evidence of the burials reported previously.