Croig Cave: a Late Bronze Age ornament deposit and three millennia of fishing and foraging on the north-west coast of Mull, Scotland
Wood Charcoal, Floor, Seaweed, Shellfish, Settlement Pattern, Cave Floors, Amber Bead, Iron Slag, Cave High Zinc, Copper Bracelet, Pit, Midden, Fish
Ad 1400, C 400 Bc, Later Prehistoric, C 1700 Bc, C 950 Bc, Ad 1200, Late Bronze Age
Activity within caves provides an important element of the later prehistoric and historic settlement pattern of western Scotland. This contribution reports on a small-scale excavation within Croig Cave, on the coast of north-west Mull, that exposed a 1.95 m sequence of midden deposits and cave floors that date between c 1700 BC and AD 1400. Midden analysis indicated the processing of a diverse range of small fish and the collection of shellfish throughout this period, showing a high degree of continuity involving low-risk inshore fishing. At c 950 BC, a penannular copper bracelet and an amber bead were deposited within a small, shallow pit within the cave floor, suggestive of a discrete ritual episode within the cycle of otherwise potentially mundane activities. Lead isotope analysis indicated an Irish origin for the copper ore. A piece of iron slag within later midden deposits, dated to c 400 BC, along with high frequencies of wood charcoal, suggest that smithing or smelting may have occurred within the cave. High zinc levels in the historic levels of the midden c AD 1200 might indicate intensive processing of seaweed.