Bornais Settlements

Bornish, Isle Of South Uist, Outer Hebrides, HS8 5SA

Type:Monuments & Ruins

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Between 1994 and 2004, excavations were undertaken at all three mounds. At Mound 1, the southernmost of the group, the excavations uncovered what was probably a Late Iron Age wheelhouse, which after destruction by fire was rebuilt as a rectangular building. The later structure had a central hearth surrounded on three sides by cattle leg bones rammed into the floor with their upper ends showing: evidence, perhaps, of the complex symbolism linked with domestic animals during the Iron Age. Large quantities of bones, ceramics and pottery were found distributed throughout the destruction layer, together with objects including bone dice, a whalebone axe and crucible fragments.

Mounds 2 and 3 are approximately 50-100m north-east of Mound 1. They are the visible remains of a larger Norse period settlement of at least 20 buildings, representing one of the largest and most important Norse settlements in Scotland. Excavations at one of these mounds produced a sequence of two or three large rectangular buildings dating from the 7th to 13th centuries AD. The preservation within these structures was excellent, with intact floor layers and midden deposits containing large quantities of animal and fish bones, carbonised plant remains and ceramics. This was the principal focus of the settlement in the Norse period, the halls representing the home of an important Viking lord and housing his family and a large retinue of dependants. The principal features were a large central area, where hearths were lit, and a raised bench which surrounded it. Large quantities of tools, cooking vessels and ornaments were found scattered across the floor and these included a bone cylinder in the distinctive Norse Ringerike style.

Fieldwork at the third mound revealed a late Norse house with an associated corn drying kiln and barn. The assemblage of artefacts from the excavated mounds includes items made from antler (for making combs), whalebone, ivory, lead, bronze, iron and glass. This was a location for families of lower status who lived in less substantial houses.

The large size of the settlement is unusual and suggests it was an important centre for the other Norse communities of South Uist. The agricultural basis of the community was the cultivation of barley, oats and rye, and large herds of cattle and sheep would have been grazed on the machair and in the adjacent uplands. A very important supplement to this diet was fish. Herring were particularly common and the importance of the settlement may be related to the presence of a natural harbour nearby.

A rich trading centre Large quantities of finds have been recovered and including many iron, bone and antler tools, and the remains of hundreds of broken pots. Imported material includes coins and ceramics from southern England, a distinctive green marble from Greece, bronze pins from Ireland, soapstone from Shetland, ivory from Greenland and bone combs and other objects from Norway. Clearly the community was connected with other areas of the North Atlantic and is likely to have been regularly visited by people moving along the west coast of Britain between south west England.

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What's Nearby

  1. St Mary's Catholic Church
    0.41 miles away
  2. Along the west coast of South Uist is an approx. 20 mile strip of stunning white beach…

    0.42 miles away
  3. Along the west coast of South Uist is an approx. 20 mile strip of stunning white beach…

    0.43 miles away
  1. Colourful fallow or crops full of Corn Marigold can be seen from the main track across…

    0.58 miles away
  2. This is our smallest bird of prey with males appearing a dashing, steel blue compared…

    1.02 miles away
  3. Dun Mhulan

    The broch of Dùn Mhulan was inhabited during the Iron Age. This large tower-like house…

    1.06 miles away
  4. On the west side, in the village of Ormiclate is Ormiclate Castle which stands in ruins…

    1.08 miles away
  5. South Uist War Memorial

    1.32 miles away
  6. You can usually find seals hauled out on the rocky promonatry looking south-west from the…

    1.36 miles away
  7. There are regular sightings of Bottlenose Dolphins to the south and west of the headland.

    1.36 miles away
  8. Usually found around the coastline either side of the headland.

    1.36 miles away
  9. Along the west coast of South Uist is an approx. 20 mile strip of stunning white beach…

    1.44 miles away
  10. Scan the hills to the east of the main road.

    1.84 miles away
  11. An excellent area for sightings of this species.

    1.84 miles away
  12. Learn about the South Uists local history at Kildonan Museum through stories, artefacts…

    1.93 miles away
  13. Birthplace of Flora MacDonald "...a name that will be mentioned in history, and if…

    2.13 miles away
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