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Achnahaird Sands (758)

Current Priority
1
East
201663
North
913125
Site Type
Building Complex, Cairn And Midden
Period
Pre-modern

70m from HWM. An extensive coastal sand dune system situated on the W side of Achnahaird Bay (Plate14) containing a structural complex, palaeosol exposures and midden deposits (max extent 1400m x 600m NW-SE). The significance of the site has been noted on previous occasions (Long 1995) and is subject of ongoing background research (Long in prep.). The archaeological deposits have been exposed in 6 principal zones (A-G), with the greatest exposure occurring towards the S end of the complex (Zones C-G; Figure 8). The structural complex consists of 2 sub-rectangular buildings (1-2) and a composite enclosure wall, defining an area containing paving, occasional hearths and vague structural remains (Plate 15). An outlying cairn (3) is located to the E, and to the NW of this complex is located a network of drystone walls, stone heaps and scatter of 19th century ceramics and glass. These structures are presumed to lie immediately SE of the 18th century settlement depicted by Peter May in 1756 (SRO/RHP85395), and may represent outlying buildings of Achnahaird township (8/4). The principal structure comprise: 1. Large sub-rectangular, bipartite building (16.6m x 7.2m WNW-ESE) with thick, coursed rubble walls (0.6m high x 1.3m thick), with both inner and outer faces and rounded corners. A t least 5 courses are visible at the W end. At the SE corner the structure intersects with the enclosure wall complex and another low stub of walling abuts the S wall. The N side of the structure is buried beneath a residual dune, and the E end is eroding as a sand slope retreats westwards, thus threatening the integrity of the entire structure (ALS477). 2. Sub-rectangular building (12.4m x 7m WNW-ESE) with rubble walls (0.3m high x 0.4m thick), with bowed walls, a rounded W end, squared off E end and entrance at NE corner, defined by a possible wall return (Cover, Vol. 2 and Plate 16). At least 2 courses are visible on the SSE end. A short section of wall allegedly abuts the SSW side (ALS), however, this was no longer visible at the time of inspection. The outline of the building was fully exposed through the retreat of a stable machair surface (1-2m higher than the structure) and the subsequent deflation of surrounding sand, though some depth of associated deposits may survive both inside and around the structure. The building is at immediate risk from continued deflation and damage from livestock (ALS 478). 3. A cairn (4m x 4m N-S x 1m high) with a square base, composed of piled boulders situated 30m NE of the enclosure. The structure is likely to collapse as a result of the deflation of surrounding deposits. It has been reported that the remains of the feature have been modified by visitors to the dunes, and that the feature originally resembled a building (William MaClean pers comm, 1996). This implies that associated structural remains and deposits may still survive in surrounding deposits (ALS 479). The site is scattered with both extensive artefactual and ecofactual material which has attracted the attention of both local and visiting enthusiasts, resulting in a number of valuable collections. The artifact assemblage recorded to date consists of handmade pottery sherds, occasional wheel made sherds, iron, lead and copper alloy artifacts (e.g. nails , knives and brooches), coins (16th-17th century), lithics, steatite and other worked stone, and metal working waste (iron slag, copper alloy offcuts & casting moulds). The ecofact assemblage principally consists of macro shellfish remains (e.g. Common European Limpet (Patella vulgaris), Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorina) and Common European Cockle (Cerastoderma edule)) and various unidentified animal bone, some displaying butchering marks; shell and bone both occur in burnt and unburnt contexts. Many of the exposed deposits have a visible organic component with high potential for environmental sampling (Diane Alldritt pers. comm. 1996). The artifacts suggest a late pre-historic to post-medieval occupation with a putative Norse origin, as suggested by comparisons in the assemblage with Freswick Links and the presence of a copper alloy strip with a derivative ring twist interlace motif (NMAS). The industrial and economic character of the site (cf. iron, copper and stone working waste, coins and a small bronze 'cup' weight) are considered highly significant given the current poor understanding of settlement and economy in the Highlands during this period. Condition: This site has experienced steady erosion over a period of 30 years (see reports by various correspondents in Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 1969, 1974, 1976 & 1985 and recent sand movement has uncovered features not previously exposed, such as building 2, the hearths and paving. The S end of the sand dune complex in particular has been highly denuded through a combination of point erosion, rabbit burrowing and stock grazing. A stock track crossing the site on SE-NW axis has created a zone of considerable erosion (D-F), exposing and disturbing cultural deposits to the level of an underlying palaeosol (Figure 8). This area contains the majority of evidence for pre-19th century occupation in the dune system. The process of denudation is steadily progressing to the N and W, as indicated by erosion to adjacent machair deposits (Plate 16). It is considered probable that additional deposits and structures will continue to be exposed and destroyed through this process. There are still intact archaeological deposits located at the site (Plate 17) which should be systematically investigated through a programme of survey, surface collection, environmental sampling and excavation within the next 5 years (2001).

ShoreUPDATE JV & FV 10 June 2016

Complex is broadly as described below.

Specifically - Structure 1 as numbered is as described although the reference to the N of the structure being buried below a residual dune is no longer the case. This is now exposed and there are apparent stone piles, possibly additional structure visible to the north side. (Photo 2 shows the north side of structure 1). The E side has large burrows in the walls and there are signs of deflation (photo 3). There are a number of burrows around the structure undermining its integrity. The infill in the W wall shows apparent infill with midden deposits. The lower stub of walling noted to abut the S wall is visible and travels south towards the NW corner of structure 2 (Photo 6). This would appear to form part of the composite enclosure wall described.

Structure 2 is as described. In addition a structure, possibly a wall, can now be seen from the external NE wall to the SW of structure 1 (Photo 6). This is bisected by a footpath which appears to have eroded this area as described below. In addition a further apparent wall/ boundary can be seen parallel to the S side of the building, partially exposed with apparent deflation and then continuing in a line SE (photo 8).

Structure 3, the cairn is eroding on the NE side (photo 9) and there is significant burrow damage to same with apparent deflation (photo 10).

The composite enclosure wall has two large stones visible on the E of the site (photo 7) which are not mentioned in the description but are notable at the site due to their size.

There continues to be large areas of more modern deposits immediately to the NW of the site both lying in the sand and in sections (Photos 11 & 12).

ShoreUPDATE 5 May 2017 Modern midden deposits (c.early-mid 20thC) surround site to the south - of some interest. Sheep burials starting to be exposed at surface in the machair.

Condition and current recommendations:

Condition
Poor
Action
Visit - assess condition of the site ;
Survey site - using several techniques to characterise site ;
Excavate site - open area

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Record 8/5 on map 8 in Coastal Assessment Survey Ullapool to Lochinver,Volume 2, Prepared for Historic Scotland, October 1996

Other records:

NMRS
4488
SMR
MHG9129

ShoreUpdates

2 ShoreUpdates accepted and 0 pending.

Click on an update to expand it.

10th June, 2016 by Jenvalentine
Survey Information
User:
Jenvalentine
Date:
June 10, 2016
Tidal state:
mid
Site located?:
Yes
Condition Information
Proximity to coast edge:
>50m
Coastally eroding?:
active wind erosion (in dunes only); has eroded in the past
Is there a coastal defence?:
no
Other threats?:
stock erosion; animal burrows; visitor erosion
Description:

70m from HWM. An extensive coastal sand dune system situated on the W side of Achnahaird Bay (Plate14) containing a structural complex, palaeosol exposures and midden deposits (max extent 1400m x 600m NW-SE). The significance of the site has been noted on previous occasions (Long 1995) and is subject of ongoing background research (Long in prep.). The archaeological deposits have been exposed in 6 principal zones (A-G), with the greatest exposure occurring towards the S end of the complex (Zones C-G; Figure 8). The structural complex consists of 2 sub-rectangular buildings (1-2) and a composite enclosure wall, defining an area containing paving, occasional hearths and vague structural remains (Plate 15). An outlying cairn (3) is located to the E, and to the NW of this complex is located a network of drystone walls, stone heaps and scatter of 19th century ceramics and glass. These structures are presumed to lie immediately SE of the 18th century settlement depicted by Peter May in 1756 (SRO/RHP85395), and may represent outlying buildings of Achnahaird township (8/4). The principal structure comprise: 1. Large sub-rectangular, bipartite building (16.6m x 7.2m WNW-ESE) with thick, coursed rubble walls (0.6m high x 1.3m thick), with both inner and outer faces and rounded corners. A t least 5 courses are visible at the W end. At the SE corner the structure intersects with the enclosure wall complex and another low stub of walling abuts the S wall. The N side of the structure is buried beneath a residual dune, and the E end is eroding as a sand slope retreats westwards, thus threatening the integrity of the entire structure (ALS477). 2. Sub-rectangular building (12.4m x 7m WNW-ESE) with rubble walls (0.3m high x 0.4m thick), with bowed walls, a rounded W end, squared off E end and entrance at NE corner, defined by a possible wall return (Cover, Vol. 2 and Plate 16). At least 2 courses are visible on the SSE end. A short section of wall allegedly abuts the SSW side (ALS), however, this was no longer visible at the time of inspection. The outline of the building was fully exposed through the retreat of a stable machair surface (1-2m higher than the structure) and the subsequent deflation of surrounding sand, though some depth of associated deposits may survive both inside and around the structure. The building is at immediate risk from continued deflation and damage from livestock (ALS 478). 3. A cairn (4m x 4m N-S x 1m high) with a square base, composed of piled boulders situated 30m NE of the enclosure. The structure is likely to collapse as a result of the deflation of surrounding deposits. It has been reported that the remains of the feature have been modified by visitors to the dunes, and that the feature originally resembled a building (William MaClean pers comm, 1996). This implies that associated structural remains and deposits may still survive in surrounding deposits (ALS 479). The site is scattered with both extensive artefactual and ecofactual material which has attracted the attention of both local and visiting enthusiasts, resulting in a number of valuable collections. The artifact assemblage recorded to date consists of handmade pottery sherds, occasional wheel made sherds, iron, lead and copper alloy artifacts (e.g. nails , knives and brooches), coins (16th-17th century), lithics, steatite and other worked stone, and metal working waste (iron slag, copper alloy offcuts & casting moulds). The ecofact assemblage principally consists of macro shellfish remains (e.g. Common European Limpet (Patella vulgaris), Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorina) and Common European Cockle (Cerastoderma edule)) and various unidentified animal bone, some displaying butchering marks; shell and bone both occur in burnt and unburnt contexts. Many of the exposed deposits have a visible organic component with high potential for environmental sampling (Diane Alldritt pers. comm. 1996). The artifacts suggest a late pre-historic to post-medieval occupation with a putative Norse origin, as suggested by comparisons in the assemblage with Freswick Links and the presence of a copper alloy strip with a derivative ring twist interlace motif (NMAS). The industrial and economic character of the site (cf. iron, copper and stone working waste, coins and a small bronze 'cup' weight) are considered highly significant given the current poor understanding of settlement and economy in the Highlands during this period. Condition: This site has experienced steady erosion over a period of 30 years (see reports by various correspondents in Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 1969, 1974, 1976 & 1985 and recent sand movement has uncovered features not previously exposed, such as building 2, the hearths and paving. The S end of the sand dune complex in particular has been highly denuded through a combination of point erosion, rabbit burrowing and stock grazing. A stock track crossing the site on SE-NW axis has created a zone of considerable erosion (D-F), exposing and disturbing cultural deposits to the level of an underlying palaeosol (Figure 8). This area contains the majority of evidence for pre-19th century occupation in the dune system. The process of denudation is steadily progressing to the N and W, as indicated by erosion to adjacent machair deposits (Plate 16). It is considered probable that additional deposits and structures will continue to be exposed and destroyed through this process. There are still intact archaeological deposits located at the site (Plate 17) which should be systematically investigated through a programme of survey, surface collection, environmental sampling and excavation within the next 5 years (2001).

ShoreUPDATE JV & FV 10 June 2016

Complex is broadly as described below.

Specifically - Structure 1 as numbered is as described although the reference to the N of the structure being buried below a residual dune is no longer the case. This is now exposed and there are apparent stone piles, possibly additional structure visible to the north side. (Photo 2 shows the north side of structure 1). The E side has large burrows in the walls and there are signs of deflation (photo 3). There are a number of burrows around the structure undermining its integrity. The infill in the W wall shows apparent infill with midden deposits. The lower stub of walling noted to abut the S wall is visible and travels south towards the NW corner of structure 2 (Photo 6). This would appear to form part of the composite enclosure wall described.

Structure 2 is as described. In addition a structure, possibly a wall, can now be seen from the external NE wall to the SW of structure 1 (Photo 6). This is bisected by a footpath which appears to have eroded this area as described below. In addition a further apparent wall/ boundary can be seen parallel to the S side of the building, partially exposed with apparent deflation and then continuing in a line SE (photo 8).

Structure 3, the cairn is eroding on the NE side (photo 9) and there is significant burrow damage to same with apparent deflation (photo 10).

The composite enclosure wall has two large stones visible on the E of the site (photo 7) which are not mentioned in the description but are notable at the site due to their size.

There continues to be large areas of more modern deposits immediately to the NW of the site both lying in the sand and in sections (Photos 11 & 12).

Management Information
How visible are the remains? (above ground):
highly visible (substantial remains)
How visible are the remains? (in section):
limited visibility in section
How accessibile is the site?:
accessible on foot (no footpath)
The site is:
is well known
Comments and recommendations
Comments:

Whilst some areas of the site appear stable with grass growth in sections, there remain areas where the dunes are still eroding with wind and animal damage.

Recommendations:

This site would merit from a full survey and then revisits to accurately record the erosion of the site. There has been erosion since the 2001 survey and this site would merit further investigation. Archaeological deposits are being exposed due to the erosion.

5th May, 2017 by lhamlet
Survey Information
User:
lhamlet
Date:
May 5, 2017
Tidal state:
high
Site located?:
Yes
Condition Information
Proximity to coast edge:
>50m
Coastally eroding?:
active wind erosion (in dunes only)
Is there a coastal defence?:
no
Other threats?:
stock erosion; animal burrows; visitor erosion; structural damage/decay
Description:

70m from HWM. An extensive coastal sand dune system situated on the W side of Achnahaird Bay (Plate14) containing a structural complex, palaeosol exposures and midden deposits (max extent 1400m x 600m NW-SE). The significance of the site has been noted on previous occasions (Long 1995) and is subject of ongoing background research (Long in prep.). The archaeological deposits have been exposed in 6 principal zones (A-G), with the greatest exposure occurring towards the S end of the complex (Zones C-G; Figure 8). The structural complex consists of 2 sub-rectangular buildings (1-2) and a composite enclosure wall, defining an area containing paving, occasional hearths and vague structural remains (Plate 15). An outlying cairn (3) is located to the E, and to the NW of this complex is located a network of drystone walls, stone heaps and scatter of 19th century ceramics and glass. These structures are presumed to lie immediately SE of the 18th century settlement depicted by Peter May in 1756 (SRO/RHP85395), and may represent outlying buildings of Achnahaird township (8/4). The principal structure comprise: 1. Large sub-rectangular, bipartite building (16.6m x 7.2m WNW-ESE) with thick, coursed rubble walls (0.6m high x 1.3m thick), with both inner and outer faces and rounded corners. A t least 5 courses are visible at the W end. At the SE corner the structure intersects with the enclosure wall complex and another low stub of walling abuts the S wall. The N side of the structure is buried beneath a residual dune, and the E end is eroding as a sand slope retreats westwards, thus threatening the integrity of the entire structure (ALS477). 2. Sub-rectangular building (12.4m x 7m WNW-ESE) with rubble walls (0.3m high x 0.4m thick), with bowed walls, a rounded W end, squared off E end and entrance at NE corner, defined by a possible wall return (Cover, Vol. 2 and Plate 16). At least 2 courses are visible on the SSE end. A short section of wall allegedly abuts the SSW side (ALS), however, this was no longer visible at the time of inspection. The outline of the building was fully exposed through the retreat of a stable machair surface (1-2m higher than the structure) and the subsequent deflation of surrounding sand, though some depth of associated deposits may survive both inside and around the structure. The building is at immediate risk from continued deflation and damage from livestock (ALS 478). 3. A cairn (4m x 4m N-S x 1m high) with a square base, composed of piled boulders situated 30m NE of the enclosure. The structure is likely to collapse as a result of the deflation of surrounding deposits. It has been reported that the remains of the feature have been modified by visitors to the dunes, and that the feature originally resembled a building (William MaClean pers comm, 1996). This implies that associated structural remains and deposits may still survive in surrounding deposits (ALS 479). The site is scattered with both extensive artefactual and ecofactual material which has attracted the attention of both local and visiting enthusiasts, resulting in a number of valuable collections. The artifact assemblage recorded to date consists of handmade pottery sherds, occasional wheel made sherds, iron, lead and copper alloy artifacts (e.g. nails , knives and brooches), coins (16th-17th century), lithics, steatite and other worked stone, and metal working waste (iron slag, copper alloy offcuts & casting moulds). The ecofact assemblage principally consists of macro shellfish remains (e.g. Common European Limpet (Patella vulgaris), Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorina) and Common European Cockle (Cerastoderma edule)) and various unidentified animal bone, some displaying butchering marks; shell and bone both occur in burnt and unburnt contexts. Many of the exposed deposits have a visible organic component with high potential for environmental sampling (Diane Alldritt pers. comm. 1996). The artifacts suggest a late pre-historic to post-medieval occupation with a putative Norse origin, as suggested by comparisons in the assemblage with Freswick Links and the presence of a copper alloy strip with a derivative ring twist interlace motif (NMAS). The industrial and economic character of the site (cf. iron, copper and stone working waste, coins and a small bronze 'cup' weight) are considered highly significant given the current poor understanding of settlement and economy in the Highlands during this period. Condition: This site has experienced steady erosion over a period of 30 years (see reports by various correspondents in Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 1969, 1974, 1976 & 1985 and recent sand movement has uncovered features not previously exposed, such as building 2, the hearths and paving. The S end of the sand dune complex in particular has been highly denuded through a combination of point erosion, rabbit burrowing and stock grazing. A stock track crossing the site on SE-NW axis has created a zone of considerable erosion (D-F), exposing and disturbing cultural deposits to the level of an underlying palaeosol (Figure 8). This area contains the majority of evidence for pre-19th century occupation in the dune system. The process of denudation is steadily progressing to the N and W, as indicated by erosion to adjacent machair deposits (Plate 16). It is considered probable that additional deposits and structures will continue to be exposed and destroyed through this process. There are still intact archaeological deposits located at the site (Plate 17) which should be systematically investigated through a programme of survey, surface collection, environmental sampling and excavation within the next 5 years (2001).

ShoreUPDATE JV & FV 10 June 2016

Complex is broadly as described below.

Specifically - Structure 1 as numbered is as described although the reference to the N of the structure being buried below a residual dune is no longer the case. This is now exposed and there are apparent stone piles, possibly additional structure visible to the north side. (Photo 2 shows the north side of structure 1). The E side has large burrows in the walls and there are signs of deflation (photo 3). There are a number of burrows around the structure undermining its integrity. The infill in the W wall shows apparent infill with midden deposits. The lower stub of walling noted to abut the S wall is visible and travels south towards the NW corner of structure 2 (Photo 6). This would appear to form part of the composite enclosure wall described.

Structure 2 is as described. In addition a structure, possibly a wall, can now be seen from the external NE wall to the SW of structure 1 (Photo 6). This is bisected by a footpath which appears to have eroded this area as described below. In addition a further apparent wall/ boundary can be seen parallel to the S side of the building, partially exposed with apparent deflation and then continuing in a line SE (photo 8).

Structure 3, the cairn is eroding on the NE side (photo 9) and there is significant burrow damage to same with apparent deflation (photo 10).

The composite enclosure wall has two large stones visible on the E of the site (photo 7) which are not mentioned in the description but are notable at the site due to their size.

There continues to be large areas of more modern deposits immediately to the NW of the site both lying in the sand and in sections (Photos 11 & 12).

ShoreUPDATE 5 May 2017 Modern midden deposits (c.early-mid 20thC) surround site to the south - of some interest. Sheep burials starting to be exposed at surface in the machair.

Management Information
How visible are the remains? (above ground):
highly visible (substantial remains)
How visible are the remains? (in section):
clearly visible in section
How accessibile is the site?:
easily accessible- no restrictions
The site is:
has local associations/history
Comments and recommendations
Comments:

Modern midden deposits (c.early-mid 20thC) surround site to the south - of some interest. Sheep burials starting to be exposed at surface in the machair.

Recommendations:

This site is open and exposed at the surface, palaeosols and anthropic sediments are being weathered out and eroded. These protect the structural remains and in several places are almost completely weathered out. The next step is obviously structural collapse. Rescue excavation is necessary to collect environmental and geoarchaeological data before its too late.