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29 September 2008
Iron Age finds in the Outer Hebrides

A cremation pit containing a human jaw bone mixed with animal bones is one of a treasure trove of finds currently coming to light in an archaeological dig at Baleshare, a flat tidal island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Other finds include a perfectly preserved hearth, with a clay foundation scratched with a cross, and a plethora of worked bone, shell and pottery artefacts. Archaeologists say the finds promise a breakthrough in understanding the mysterious ways of the pre-historic Hebridean.
     The Iron Age site at Sloc Sabhaid on Baleshare, North Uist comprises a settlement of wheelhouses, round structures divided by internal radial walls forming rooms within the building. A huge storm in 2005 tore away more than 150m of Baleshare's fragile coastline to reveal the 2,000 year old settlement, which appears to extend some distance under neighbouring croft land. In a race against time, Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion (SCAPE) has been working to excavate and record the site before it is lost for ever to the sea.
     Part of the settlement was dug out and recorded last year, shortly before a high August tide ripped away a further 3m of coastline and the excavated area with it. This year, professional archaeologists, funded by Historic Scotland, have been joined on a three week dig by volunteers from the local archaeology group, Access Archaeology.

Sources: Scotsman.com (27 September 2008), Stornoway Gazette (29 September 2008)

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