South Dell, Isle Of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, HS2 0SP

Type:Monuments & Ruins

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The area around Dunsabroc was well populated in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.There are no obvious structures on the top at first inspection, but sections of well made yet slight dry stone walling are exposed in many places. Some of these sections of wall nestle within crannies in the natural rock, and could never have supported any weight from above.

Dunasbroc was subject to small scale excavations in 2005. The main activity upon the stack seems to have been a large and very hot fire, which covered most of the area of the plateau. Walls shored up and enhanced the plateau and provided an access way spiralling up to it from the south west corner. Within this area many things were gathered to burn, including meat (including sheep or goat and cattle), emmer wheat, flint and large pieces of beautifully made Neolithic pottery pottery. Wood was added to get things going, with the charcoal from Birch, Hazel, Conifer, Heather, Apple, and Spruce - not a native wood, so thought to be driftwood, and large amounts of Willow. This period of burning was carbon dated to around 3,750 BC.

The wide variety of wood burnt at the site seems to imply that an effort was made to gather a representative of each available native tree, as if each were symbolic of something. The concentration of Willow towards the northern edge of the plateau was sufficient to suggest that there may have been either a wicker structure or group of creels or baskets burnt there.

The evidence suggests that around 0 - 200AD, the site was swept clean and a new fire lit upon the stack, in which barley was burnt in at least one hot fire.

The Neolithic produce and raw materials burnt at Dunasbroc could be argued to represent many aspects of life in that age, and it is suggested that their collective burning there was a kind of votive deposit or offering, perhaps even a kind of harvest thanksgiving. The exact meaning and nature of this is not known but it seems probable that the site's geographical location, which was very close to the sea, was significant to this. After almost 4,000 years a similar, possibly related, activity took place again.

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