Monday, 6 June 2016

Rock Shelters

The rocky hill in the centre of this picture lies on a straight line between Achnaha and Glendrian Caves, about 750m from the north coast. Rock climbers enjoy its vertical faces in summer, but otherwise it's rarely visited today.

To people in the distant past, however, the tumble of massive rock slabs around its west and north faces may have offered ideal shelters.

This picture shows the north face, with three possible shelters marked. Of these....

....the one marked '1' has most obviously been used, because its inhabitants have built, around the entrance to the shelter itself, a stone wall which encloses a yard.

The rocks used to build the wall are fairly massive: it's not the sort of wall that has been built for a short stay. The entrance to the 'yard' is to the right and, judging by the number of rocks which have tumbled off the wall, in its day it would have been a good metre or more high.

Over the years, the 'yard' and cave have been infilled by earth and vegetation, so the shelter, which at present only goes back a metre or so, may well have run all the way underneath the massive slab that forms its roof.

Shelter '3' is a simpler affair, but evidently had a wall built along its front - some of the rocks from this can be seen where they have fallen into the shelter.

Nearby, a spring issues from underneath another large rock, giving the inhabitants the convenience of fresh running water to their front doors.

As with all such things, dating the use of these shelters isn't possible, but the people who are most likely to have developed them are the nomadic hunter-gatherer groups who visited this coast in mesolithic times. Their middens - rubbish heaps - have been found on Risga and at Sanna.

The geography of the coast in their day would have been different as sea level was around 10m higher than now. Their nearest beach - today a raised beach formed of pebbles - is marked on this Bing satellite picture.

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