Friday, 21 March 2014

The Archaeology of Camas nan Geall

Camas nan Geall is beautiful, even on a grey day and between wintery showers.  But beneath the skin of this serene place lies a long history visible in the many archaeological remains that are scattered round the bay.  The place has so many layers of history - neolithic, bronze age, possibly iron age, early Christian, and pre- and post-clearance - that the whole site is a scheduled monument.

This is the oldest site, a neolithic chambered cairn, much robbed of its smaller rocks, on top of which stands what may either be a pre-clearances house or, possibly, a chapel.  Between it and the beach lies....

...what at first sight is a cemetery, with its tombstones leant against the outer wall, but it may also have been a chapel, the stones later moved inside it.

Members of Ardnamurchan Community Archaeology spent part of this afternoon looking around Camas nan Geall with Phil Richardson and Cara Jones of Archaeology Scotland.  The hope is that, guided by Archaeology Scotland, the local group may be able to do some work on the various sites, which would include clearing them of bracken and repairing the fences, work which might progress to carrying out detailed surveys.

There is so much to do.  While two gravestones, dating from the early 18th century, have always been visible within the graveyard, in the short time we were there we found at least two more, also with carvings on them.  If permission can be obtained from Historic Scotland, some preservation work might be carried out on the stones - at least cleaning them of their moss - and the ones which are currently half-hidden cleared so they can be studied.

Another possible area for development is the interpretation of the site for visitors.  There is so much here that is so easily missed, yet a couple of explanatory boards could tell so much.  For example, around the edge of the gravestones are small carvings, which include this skull and cross-bones, which none of us had noticed before.

Perhaps the highlight of the site is this standing stone.  It's almost certainly bronze age, but the carvings on it are early Christian.  The cross is easy enough to understand, but above it there is a dog, not usually associated with Christian monuments.

If anyone is interested in joining Ardnamurchan Community Archaeology, or would like to be involved in the work at Camas nan Geall, please contact us through the Diary.


  1. A skull with a nose! I'm tempted to think that this is testament to blissful ignorance in a wholesome life. I hope so.

  2. Michael Sweeney22 March 2014 at 09:00

    Brought back memories of many lovely walks at Camas nan Geall. You are right, it is easy to miss half-hidden things, but I would be wary of too much tidying up and information signs- would have to be discreet, as the wildness of the site is much of its appeal. Could the dog on the standing stone be a lamb? Not sure how it is known to be a dog? Mike, Norfolk.