Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk

Sites at Risk

New to the Sites at Risk map? Watch our How to... guidance videos to help you get started.

Back to the map of sites.

Mail (6562)

Current Priority
2
East
442950
North
1127920
Site Type
Settlement
Period
Prehistoric

Midden deposits and artefacts were uncovered in the coastal section near the Church and Manse at Mail (see SM21). The finds were made in the last century by the Rev. G. Clarke. They included deposits containing burnt bone, shell and carbonised grain and steatite vessels and a quernstone. While the cliff face is now partially covered with rough vegetation and recently dumped refuse, deep deposits of cultivation soil are visible in the eroding section. These deposits contain inclusions of shell and bone and, together with the deposits and artefacts recorded in the past, suggest the presence of a prehistoric or early historic settlement site.

27/05/14 Approximately 150m of eroding sand section long the Sands of Mail below the Free Church, manse and cottage. Around 3m of blown sand overlie a continuous layer of reddish brown sandy clay and midden comprised of peat ash and organic material, containing frequent charcoal, shell (mainly limpet and winkle) animal bone fragments, fire-cracked stone and angular quartz fragments. Occasional coarse prehistoric pottery can be seen, including a 30cm diameter concave bowl fragment which appears to line a depression or cut in the underlying natural till. This is located at the far eastern end of the eroding section. The thickness of the midden deposits varies from 0.6m to 1m. Below the Free Church and the manse, the midden deposits form 2 distinct layers separated by sandier deposits. Eastwards from the manse, the upper layer is not visible and only the lower layer extends to below the cottage where it too becomes obscured in slumped deposits.

Towards the west end of the section towards the stream and more or less below the Free Church, the bedrock rises by around 1.5m to form a low platform. Upon this area of higher bedrock is an approximate 18m length of boulder sized stone associated with very thick midden deposits. Some of these boulders are nearly 1m in diametre. Two fragments of walling are identifiable, possibly aligned ENE-WSW.

Archaeological deposits rest directly upon the surface of the till. No intervening buried soils, sand etc were visible.

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

Over to you...

If you know there are errors in the original site record you can edit the original record here

If you would like to visit the site and carry out a ShoreUPDATE survey, you can prepare a ShoreUPDATE pack for this site (PDF) here.

If you want to use your smart phone to carry out the ShoreUPDATE survey, you can download the app here.

If you have completed a field survey of this site, you can submit your ShoreUPDATE record here.

Record SM24 on map South Mainland: Map 2 in Shetland Coastal Survey: South Mainland, Lunnasting, Whalsay, 1998

Other records:

NMRS
927
SMR
SMR744

ShoreUpdates

1 ShoreUpdate accepted and 0 pending.

Click on an update to expand it.

27th May, 2014 by training1
Survey Information
User:
training1
Date:
May 27, 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
Description:

Midden deposits and artefacts were uncovered in the coastal section near the Church and Manse at Mail (see SM21). The finds were made in the last century by the Rev. G. Clarke. They included deposits containing burnt bone, shell and carbonised grain and steatite vessels and a quernstone. While the cliff face is now partially covered with rough vegetation and recently dumped refuse, deep deposits of cultivation soil are visible in the eroding section. These deposits contain inclusions of shell and bone and, together with the deposits and artefacts recorded in the past, suggest the presence of a prehistoric or early historic settlement site.

27/05/14 Approximately 150m of eroding sand section long the Sands of Mail below the Free Church, manse and cottage. Around 3m of blown sand overlie a continuous layer of reddish brown sandy clay and midden comprised of peat ash and organic material, containing frequent charcoal, shell (mainly limpet and winkle) animal bone fragments, fire-cracked stone and angular quartz fragments. Occasional coarse prehistoric pottery can be seen, including a 30cm diameter concave bowl fragment which appears to line a depression or cut in the underlying natural till. This is located at the far eastern end of the eroding section. The thickness of the midden deposits varies from 0.6m to 1m. Below the Free Church and the manse, the midden deposits form 2 distinct layers separated by sandier deposits. Eastwards from the manse, the upper layer is not visible and only the lower layer extends to below the cottage where it too becomes obscured in slumped deposits.

Towards the west end of the section towards the stream and more or less below the Free Church, the bedrock rises by around 1.5m to form a low platform. Upon this area of higher bedrock is an approximate 18m length of boulder sized stone associated with very thick midden deposits. Some of these boulders are nearly 1m in diametre. Two fragments of walling are identifiable, possibly aligned ENE-WSW.

Archaeological deposits rest directly upon the surface of the till. No intervening buried soils, sand etc were visible.

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, like that of Channerwick was first exposed in the storms and easterly gales of winter 2012/13, and again in 2013/14.

Priority 1* recommended on basis of field visit; soon afterwards coastal defence was built at this site. Reassign to priority 2 status to highlight site's archaeological significance for any future coastal defence works.

Recommendations:

Urgent rapid recording of the section, sampling for dating evidence and assessment of significance.