Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk

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Bay Of Skaill (6105)

Current Priority
1
East
345540
North
1051240
Site Type
Settlement
Period
3rd-1st millennium BC

Structural remains and shell midden deposits are exposed in a sand-cliff to the fore of a ridge of dunes. These remains are visible over a distance of some 60m and are up to 3m thick. They are situated in the upper portion of the dunes, some 4m above the level of the beach. The remains are covered by deposits of wind blown sand and topsoil. At least two separate structural levels are represented in the section. They are separated by an anthropogenic soil that contains shell and fragments of bone. A drystone wall protrudes end-on to the section face towards the southern end of the exposure. It stands up to 0.3m high and appears to curved. The site is being eroded by the sea and the wind and has been further damaged by rabbits and nesting fulmars. It is known locally as 'The Pict's House'. It was opened at some time before 1928, revealing a circular chamber and a long passage. It has been eroding since at least 1928, when RCAHMS surveyors noted the presence of middens, a pot sherd and a fragment of bronze. The site cannot be characterised by the deposits currently visible or from previous records. The level of the threat is such that any further work, whether assessment or salvage excavation, should be carried out without delay.

06/07/2014 ShoreUPDATE Two areas of substantial dry-stone structural remains associated with extensive midden deposits forming a clear mound which is being sectioned by coastal erosion. The main structural elements are located in the northern half of the section. Thick midden deposits extend from these tipping downwards from north to south. The midden contains frequent fish bone, animal bone, marine shell, charcoal and fire-cracked stone. At least 2 phases of occupation separated by a layer of clean windblown sand are visible. See photographs for details of the remains.

Condition and current recommendations:

Condition
Fair
Action
Visit - check condition; characterise site and obtain dating evidence ;
Monitor site to report fresh exposures

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Record WT1 on map Westray: Map 1 in Orkney Coastal Zone Assessment Survey 1998: Westray, Papa Westray, Holm of Papa Westray, West Mainland, 1998

Other records:

NMRS
2858
SMR
Unknown

ShoreUpdates

1 ShoreUpdate accepted and 0 pending.

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6th July, 2014 by training1
Survey Information
User:
training1
Date:
July 6, 2014
Tidal state:
mid
Site located?:
Yes
Condition Information
Proximity to coast edge:
coast edge
Coastally eroding?:
active sea erosion; active wind erosion (in dunes only); has eroded in the past
Is there a coastal defence?:
no
Description:

Structural remains and shell midden deposits are exposed in a sand-cliff to the fore of a ridge of dunes. These remains are visible over a distance of some 60m and are up to 3m thick. They are situated in the upper portion of the dunes, some 4m above the level of the beach. The remains are covered by deposits of wind blown sand and topsoil. At least two separate structural levels are represented in the section. They are separated by an anthropogenic soil that contains shell and fragments of bone. A drystone wall protrudes end-on to the section face towards the southern end of the exposure. It stands up to 0.3m high and appears to curved. The site is being eroded by the sea and the wind and has been further damaged by rabbits and nesting fulmars. It is known locally as 'The Pict's House'. It was opened at some time before 1928, revealing a circular chamber and a long passage. It has been eroding since at least 1928, when RCAHMS surveyors noted the presence of middens, a pot sherd and a fragment of bronze. The site cannot be characterised by the deposits currently visible or from previous records. The level of the threat is such that any further work, whether assessment or salvage excavation, should be carried out without delay.

06/07/2014 ShoreUPDATE Two areas of substantial dry-stone structural remains associated with extensive midden deposits forming a clear mound which is being sectioned by coastal erosion. The main structural elements are located in the northern half of the section. Thick midden deposits extend from these tipping downwards from north to south. The midden contains frequent fish bone, animal bone, marine shell, charcoal and fire-cracked stone. At least 2 phases of occupation separated by a layer of clean windblown sand are visible. See photographs for details of the remains.

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?:
easily accessible- no restrictions; accessible on foot (no footpath)
The site is:
don't know
Comments and recommendations
Comments:

The volume of midden type deposits is reminiscent of the farm/settlement mound at the North Skail on Sanday, although on Westray, they are associated with at least 2 phases of structural remains.

Recommendations:

The archaeological remains in this soft dune coast edge have changed markedly since the 1998 survey. They are highly vulnerable and are possibly significant archaeology. Urgent action required. Re-assign to Priority 1*