A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides: Excavations on Mounds 2 and 2A, Bornais, South Uist [Hardback]

Niall Sharples(Editor)

ISBN: 9781789250466 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: Bornais | Volume: 3 | Year of Publication: 2019 | Language: English 752p, H8.26 x W7.75,
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A Norse Settlement in the Outer Hebrides


The settlement at Bornais in the Western Isles of Scotland is one of the largest rural settlements known from the Norse period in Britain. It spans the period from the fifth to the fifteenth century AD when the Atlantic seaboard was subject to drastic changes. The islands were systematically ravaged by Viking raiders and then colonized by Norse settlers. In the following centuries the islanders were central to the emergence of the Kingdom of Man and the Isles, played a crucial role in the development of the Lordship of the Isles and were finally assimilated into the Kingdom of Scotland.

This volume explores the stratigraphic sequence uncovered by the excavation of Bornais mounds 2 and 2A. The excavation of mound 2 revealed a sequence of high status buildings that span the Norse occupation of the settlement. One of these houses, constructed at the end of the eleventh century AD, was a well preserved bow-walled longhouse and the careful excavation and detailed recording of the floor layers has revealed a wealth of finds that provides invaluable insight into the activities taking place in this building. The final house in this sequence is very different in form and use, and clearly indicates the increasing Scottish influence on the region at the beginning of the thirteenth century.

The excavation of mound 2A provides an insight into the less prestigious areas of the settlement and contributes a significant amount of evidence on the settlement economy. The area was initially cultivated before it became a settlement local and throughout its life a focus on agricultural activities, such as grain drying and processing, appears to have been important. In the thirteenth century the mound was occupied by a craftsman who produced composite combs, gaming pieces and simple tools.

The evidence presented in this volume makes a major contribution to the understanding of Norse Scotland and the colonisation of the North Atlantic in a period of dramatic transformations.

Table of Contents

1. Bornais and the Norse settlement of the North Atlantic
2. The Late Iron Age and Early Norse activity on mound 2
3. The Early Norse activity on mound 2A (GA)
4. The Middle Norse house on mound 2 (BC)
4x. The Middle Norse transition phase on mound 2 (BD)
5. The Middle Norse activity on mound 2A
6. The Late Norse activity on mound 2
7. The Late Norse activity on mound 2A
8. The peripheral stratigraphic sequences (areas A, H, I and J)
9. The final occupation of the settlement
10. Chronology
11. Comparative analysis of the site assemblage
12. Discussion

Reviews & Quotes

""[A] very substantial new study […] The potential for understanding changes in communities and families from so much exhaustively detailed data is enormous, and already hinted at here.""

British Archaeology ()

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