Staffin Community Trust and the UHI Archaeology Institute ran a five-day community archaeological excavation by Staffin Bay in September 2015. It was the first excavation in Staffin for more than 20 years and it is hoped that the project’s success will lead to future digs in the area.
The site may date back 8,000 years to the Mesolithic era when Scotland was inhabited by hunter-gatherers who lived off the wild resources of the land and sea. The dig, which was led by UHI’s Dan Lee and Tom Desaille and SCT’s Dugald Ross, yielded a fragment of worked bone, and several hundred flints, which could provide further clues about life in the area 8,000 years ago.The discoveries were made University of the Highlands and Islands archaeologists investigated a suspected Mesolithic building. While the structure is expected to be confirmed as post-medieval the discovery of other material, including the possible bead which was recovered from material below it, which could offer a fuller picture of the area’s hunter-gatherer period.
The worked bone is 12-mm long, burnt, and appears to have been deliberately shaped at one end and perhaps drilled at the other, although this could be a fracture break during burning. It could have been a toggle or bead, perhaps worn on an item of clothing or part of a necklace if the drilling is authentic, or part of a burnt bevel-ended tool. Further analysis is required by UHI.
The community-centred excavation captured local imagination and more than 200 people visited the dig called Fo fòid na time (Under the layers of time). There were 10 local volunteers and pupils from Staffin and Kilmuir primary school were involved in the dig and used a range of techniques to investigate the site. The SCT would like to thank the Garafad township and Kilmuir Estate for their permission to hold the excavation.
Archaeological geophysics – resistance survey and ground penetrating radar – defined the structure wall and internal area, and also picked up nearby lazy beds. Topographic survey was used to create a contour plan. Test pits were dug to the south of the site and contained numerous flints in the topsoil showing that Mesolithic activity may have occurred over a wide area. Activity focused on a slight promontory as several hundred flints, including flakes and tools such as scrapers and blades, and the cores used to knap them, were found in an old topsoil horizon below the structure. The majority of the assemblage is made up of waste flakes or debitage.A report by SCT on the project, which was important culturally, socially, economically and educationally, can be read by clicking on this link. SCT archaeological dig report -pdf