Scottish Water project uncovers rare medieval artefacts near Stornoway

A Scottish Water project on the Isle of Lewis has resulted in the discovery of a medieval site rarely identified in the Outer Hebrides. 
The site, discovered close to Gress and made up of linear stone features, pits and postholes, produced over 100 shards of pottery, an unidentified coin, fish, and animal bones.

Following analysis of the finds, Scottish Water explained the site has been ‘tentatively dated’ to between the 14th and 16th Centuries AD and is thought to have been an area for processing and managing sheep, rather than a domestic dwelling due to the layout of the stone features, holes, and banks of earth.

Pottery discovered was later identified as ‘Craggan ware,’ which is a type of rough, handmade pottery from Lewis and the Hebrides that was made in some instances up to the early 20th Century.

Alastair Rees of ARCHAS Ltd, who worked with Scottish Water and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Archaeology Service at the site, said, “We have very little evidence from the medieval period in the Western Isles, partly because of the organic nature of the buildings and possibly because many of the later blackhouse settlements obscured the earlier evidence.

“This discovery was not only very interesting but helps greatly with our knowledge of this time period in the Western Isles. The features and artefactual evidence that has been recovered is suggestive of both food consumption and the processing of sheep and other animals.”

The site was discovered during a £9.3 million project to renew around 21km of water mains between Marybank and Tolsta, as well as install a new pumping station and water storage tank, which is being carried out on Scottish Water’s behalf by alliance partner Caledonia Water Alliance (CWA).

CWA project manager Lee Biddulph said, “We take our responsibility to protect the historic environment seriously and are pleased to have worked alongside Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and ARCHAS to ensure this important discovery was conserved and properly recorded. Work on the project has now entered the final stages before the new infrastructure comes into service later this year.”