Highlands & Islands

Udal artefacts allocated to isles' Museum nan Eilean

Udal
Udal was excavated between 1963 and 1995

All artefacts from a site where evidence has been found for every age from the Neolithic to the 20th Century are to be kept on the Western Isles.

Archaeology at Udal provides an "unbroken timeline" of occupation from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking, Medieval through to the 1900s.

Some of the evidence at the site was preserved by wind-blown sand dunes.

Under the terms of a new agreement, the artefacts have been allocated to Museum nan Eilean in Stornoway on Lewis.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar had asked the Scottish Archaeology Finds Allocations Panel for the material recovered from the site on North Uist be kept on the Western Isles.

The items include human remains, ancient bone combs and pottery.

They were found during excavations led by archaeologist Ian Crawford between 1963 and 1995.

The earliest Neolithic layers he revealed consisted of a line of stones with a large upright stone nicknamed the great auk stone because of its resemblance to the extinct seabird.

A deep shaft containing quartz pebbles which had been covered over with a whale's vertebrae was also uncovered.

From the Bronze Age, finds included a skeleton and from the Iron Age evidence of metal work.

Also, from the Iron Age were the remains of homes dubbed Jelly Baby houses because the shape of them looked like the sweets.

Evidence of a Viking longhouse and later occupation during the 1600s through to the 18th and 19th Centuries were also found.

Comb
A comb made of bone was among some of the ancient finds at the site

From the early 20th Century was a saw pit for cutting up wrecked boats.

The comhairle believes the site on the Grenitote peninsula to be one of the most important of its kind in the world.

It said the preservation of relics by being buried under sand was rare outside of the Middle East.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said it was "great news" that the artefacts and remains have been allocated to the museum in Stornoway.

He said: "The Udal excavations provide a unique insight into the settlement of a single site over a period of 5,000 years, and for that reason alone the finds from the site are worthy of research."

Councillor Uisdean Robertson said: "Underpinning the development of this project is a partnership with the local community, including the comhairle, Historic Scotland, The North Uist Development Company and other stakeholders.

"It demonstrates the power of archaeology to bring communities together through a positive view of archaeology and create a legacy for North Uist and the Outer Hebrides."

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