Broadcast 20 January 2008

In May 2007, an archaeological evaluation was undertaken by Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ within Allasdale Dunes, on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides (centred on NGR 065610 802830), to investigate a number of cist graves and stone structures eroding out of the sand dunes.

The aim of the evaluation was to investigate the nature of the burials and structures within a large sand dune blow-out, and to add further information to the results of an earlier rescue excavation. The project also aimed to investigate a large earthen mound nearby, considered by local tradition to be a Viking burial mound.

The evaluation revealed stratified archaeological deposits potentially dating from the Late Neolithic through to the Iron Age. These included a possible Neolithic building and associated cultivation soil; a number of Early Bronze Age burials within stonelined cists, including inhumations and cremations, radiocarbon dated to 1880-1520 BC; and two Iron Age roundhouses, the earliest dating to 750-400 BC.

Evidence of Late Iron Age activity sealed beneath the sand dunes near the blow-out was identified through the geophysical survey, which revealed the well preserved remains of a very large wheelhouse, the largest yet found on Barra. This wheelhouse was initially identified in the 1950s but had been lost beneath the shifting sand dunes.

Investigation into the possible Viking burial mound identified no evidence of a boat or buried archaeological structures, and it appears that this is merely a sand dune. 

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