Fluid identities, shifting sands: Early Bronze Age burials at Cnip Headland, Isle of Lewis

Author: Olivia Lelong

Contributors: Derek Hamilton, Angela L Lamb, Dawn McLaren, Ingrid Shearer, Jane Evans, Brendan J Keely, Tom Booth, Maureen Kilpatrick, Susanna Kirk, Marion O'Neil, Alison Sheridan, Susan Ramsay

Illustrators: Ingrid Shearer and Marion O'Neil

Summary: Excavations in 2009 and 2010 on Cnip Headland, Isle of Lewis investigated three different burials in shallow pits and on a kerbed mound, containing the inhumed remains of at least nine individuals in both articulated and disarticulated states. Bone histology analysis indicates that the bodies of all but one (a stillborn infant) were allowed to decay and become partly or wholly skeletonised before being buried at this spot. Worn jet beads, a copper-alloy awl and pieces of boar tusk and marine ivory accompanied some of the remains. The burials lay around a cairn, which previous excavations have shown was built in the 3rd millennium bc and then rebuilt twice, with both cremated and unburnt human remains incorporated in it. Another inhumation burial in a stone-lined pit close to the cairn was excavated in the 1990s. Bayesian analysis indicates that the cairn’s first reconstruction and the placing of human remains around it took place over a period of up to 150 years between 1770 and 1620 bc. The headland’s long use for rites involving human remains illuminates relationships between living communities and their lineages in Early Bronze Age north-west Scotland. The work was carried out for Historic Environment Scotland under the Human Remains Call-off Contract.

Keywords: Burial Cairn, Animal Tooth, Burial, Awl, Bead

Period: Early Bronze Age

Locations: Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Kneep, Scotland, Cnip Headland, Outer Hebrides, Isle of Lewis, Lewis and Harris. NGR: 109980,936560

Permissions: Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives licence.

 

[Gaelic]

Dearbh-aithne neo-sheasmhach, gainneamh ghluasadach: tiodhlacaidhean bho Tràth Linn an Umha air Rubha a’ Chnìp, Eilean Leòdhais

Ùghdar: Olivia Lelong

Le cuideachadh bho: Thomas Booth, Jane Evans, Derek Hamilton, B J Keely, Susanna Kirk, Maureen Kilpatrick, Angela Lamb, Dawn McLaren, Susan Ramsay agus Alison Sheridan

Dealbhan le: Ingrid Shearer agus Marion O'Neil

Geàrr-chunntas: A’ cladhach ann an 2009 agus 2010 air Rubha a’ Chnìp ann an Eilean Leòdhais, rinneadh sgrùdadh arc-eòlach air trì tiodhlacaidhean eadar-dhealaichte ann an slocan eu-domhain agus air tom cabhsaireach anns an robh iarmad daonna naoinear, cuid slàn agus cuid nam pìosan. Tha anailis hiosto-eòlach chnàimhean a’ comharrachadh gun deach leigeil le na cuirp aca seargadh gus an robh iad gu tur, no gu ìre, nan cnàimhichean, mus deach an tiodhlacadh air an làraich seo, ach a-mhàin aon neach (pàiste a bha marbh ga bhreith). Còmhla ri cuid den iarmad daonna bha grìogagan finiche ath-chaithte, brog de dh’ aloidh- copair agus pìosan de thosg tuirc agus ìbhri mara. Bha iad air an tiodhlacadh timcheall air càrn. Dhearbh cladhach a rinneadh na bu tràithe gun deach an càrn a thogail san treas linn BC agus gun deach ath-thogail dà thuras an dèidh sin, le iarmad daonna loisgte agus gun a bhith air a losgadh air a ghabhail a-steach ann.  Chaidh tiodhlacadh eile ann an sloc a th’air a lìnigeadh le clachan a chladhach anns na 1990an. A rèir anailis Bayeseach tha e coltach gun deach a’ chiad ath-thogail a dhèanamh air a’ chàrn, le iarmad daonna ga chàradh ann, thairis air ùine suas ri 150 bliadhna, eadar 1770 agus 1620 BC.  Tha gu robh an rubha air a chleachdadh thairis air iomadh bliadhna airson deas-ghnàthan co-cheangailte ri bàs a’ soilleireachadh càirdeasan eadar coimhearsnachdan beò agus an sinnsearachd ann an Tràth Linn an Umha ann an ceann an iar-thuath Alba. Chaidh an obair a dhèanamh dha Alba Aosmhor fo Chùmhnant Cladhach Èiginneach Iarmaid Daonna.

Published: 01-01-2018