Scheduled Monument

Creag a' Chapaill Cave, Rubha an Dunain, Isle of SkyeSM13675

Status: Designated

Documents

Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/termsandconditions).

The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.

Summary

Date Added
12/10/2017
Supplementary Information Updated
15/11/2017
Type
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: cave; house; hut circle, roundhouse
Local Authority
Highland
Planning Authority
Highland
Parish
Bracadale
NGR
NG 39950 16250
Coordinates
139950, 816250

Description

The monument is a cave and an adjacent prehistoric house. The cave was used intermittently from at least the 3rd millenium BC until the early medieval period and has produced a rich assemblage of artefacts. The cave and house are located at Creag a' Chapaill on the south side of the peninsula known as Rubha an Dunain overlooking Soay Sound at about 30m OD.

The cave measures approximately 3.35m in width at the entrance, approximately 4.3m in length, and 2.74m in height. The prehistoric house is located approximately 10m to the south of the cave entrance. It consists of two conjoined circles of edge-set stone slabs approximately 3-4m in diameter aligned east west, with a small circular annex attached to the westernmost circle. The cave is located on a small west-facing cliff; in front of the cave is a natural shelf.

The scheduled area is rectangular on plan, measuring 40m north south by 30m east west. The scheduling includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The entrance to Creag a' Chapaill Cave is visible as a rough natural archway at the base of a 3-4m high cliff. The cave was partly excavated in 1932 by Mr Lindsay Scott, who recorded four main layers of accumulated sediment overlying bedrock.

The lowest two layers contained 219 worked stone implements, cores and chips and is indicative of a stone knapping workshop. These layers also contained fragments of Neolithic beaker pottery similar to that found in the excavation of the chambered cairn located 600m to the east-northeast. The next layer contained a large amount of iron slag, some pottery dating from the Iron Age and most importantly the remains of a furnace.  The abundance of iron slag and the furnace demonstrates that the cave was used for iron working.

The finds of flint and stone implements, considerable quantities of iron slag, bone, pottery and a worked wooden object possibly part of an oar, demonstrates multiple phases of use in prehistory. Other finds suggest that the cave continued in use until at least the early medieval period. The cave therefore contains evidence of a long sequence of intermittent occupation during the Neolithic, the Iron Age and Early Historic periods. The plan of the adjacent prehistoric house suggests that it dates from the Bronze Age.

The excavation report shows that Scott dug several trenches within the cave, but his excavations were incomplete and it is likely that the remaining buried sediments retain significant archaeological potential. The prehistoric house was unexcavated. It is expected that further investigation of this site using current archaeological techniques would reveal new evidence about the various uses of Creag a' Chapaill Cave. This could include further details relating to the date of its original and later uses, and its relationship with the neighbouring prehistoric house. The house may have been the domestic site for the industrial activities taking place within the cave.

Contextual Characteristics

The monument is located on the peninsula of Rubha an Dunain, on the southern end of the Isle of Skye. The peninsula contains significant evidence for prehistoric occupation. Two cairns are located approximately 600m to the west, on the far side of Loch na h-Airde. The larger cairn, which has been excavated, has a central chambered which contained beaker pottery similar that found in the cave. A stone build dun is located approximately 470m to the southwest of the cave, and it occupation may have been contemporaneous with the metalwork evidence from the cave.

On the Isle of Skye, there are seven other recorded examples of caves and rock shelters that show signs of human presence, most of them found in relict cliffs. These include Uamh an Ard Achadh also known as High Pasture Cave, located 19km to the east north east of  Creag a' Chapaill Cave. High Pasture Cave has produced significant evidence of Iron Age occupation and metal working, indicating that these sites were important focal points on the Isle of Skye in the Iron Age.

When compared with other caves and rock shelters and other prehistoric monuments on the Isle of Skye, the cave at Creag a' Chapaill has considerable potential to inform us about the date and manner in which prehistoric and specifically Iron Age peoples settled the Atlantic seaboard and about trading contacts along this western seaboard.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics which contribute significantly to the cultural significance of this sites

Statement of national importance

This monument is of national importance as a natural cave and associated prehistoric house occupied intermittently from at least the Neolithic period through to the early medieval period. It can add to our understanding of the past, particularly the use of caves in this region of Scotland during prehistory. It is particularly notable for its rich assemblage of Neolithic pottery and Iron Age metalworking remains, which demonstrates that it was a significant site in prehistory. The associated structural remains of the furnace and neighbouring prehistoric house are rare survivals, and indicate the importance of this site. It adds to our wider understanding of prehistoric society and of early settlement of the Atlantic seaboard. It derives additional importance as one of a number of coastal caves across the Isle of Skye with evidence of human occupation and extensive early industrial activity.

References

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 11025 (accessed on 13/06/2017).

Local Authority HER/SMR Reference MHG4898 (accessed on 13/06/2017).

Scott, W L. 1934. Excavation of Rudh' an Dunain cave, Skye', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 68, 1933-4: 200-23

HER/SMR Reference

  • MHG4898

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

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Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot/advice-and-support. You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at designations@hes.scot.

Images

Creag a' Chapaill Cave, Rubha an Dunain, Isle of Skye, looking east, during daytime, on clear day.
Creag a' Chapaill prehistoric house, Rubha an Dunain, Isle of Skye, looking east, during daytime, on clear day.

Printed: 30/09/2022 07:08