Bosta - Iron Age House - Isle of Lewis
Bosta Iron Age House - Great Bernera - Iron Age Village - Western Isles - Outer Hebrides
The Iron Age Village was discovered at Bosta - only in 1993 when after severe gales the remains were revealed. A long excavation then followed which revealed the very important archeological finds. A reconstruction of an entire house was then carried out and that iron age house is open for visitors to see today.
The Iron Age Village Comes to Light - 1993
Bosta - It had been thought for quite some while that something special lay in the dunes at Bostadh, as artifacts were sometimes discovered on the beach.
The iron age village first came to light after gales in 1993 exposed it In the Spring of 1993, there was a storm surge all around the coast of The Islands.
This storm had the effect of creating a new face to the dunes on the south side of the beach. There were exposed - some stone structures which were obviously man made.
The University Edinburgh worked for many months - along with the Centre for Field Archaeology and with the assistance of Historic Scotland to reveal a Norse settlement - which had actually been built over earlier Iron Age houses.
It was extremely difficult to protect from the elements and the shifting sand - however with coastal defence provided the recreation of the dune with 2/3 courses of the stones outlining the houses.
The structures that can now be seen are thought to date from the 7th - 8th century. They are adaptations of earlier buildings.
The features of the houses are somewhat similar to those of Skara Brae in Orkney, constructed some 3000 years earlier.
These are not the earliest constructions - a further round house was discovered beneath House No 3. The buildings were of a sophisticated style of construction. The roof protruded above the dune and would have been thatched and/or turf covered with wooden beams
Rectangular Building from the Norse Period
There was also a rectangular building from the Norse period. An associated midden was also found , covering House 3. Domestic waste from that midden and other deposits were found to be extremely useful, the archeologists can use the material to construct a picture of the way of life of the occupants of these houses.
The bones found were from cattle and sheep, pigs and red deer. The quantity of deer bones - antlers etc would seem to point to the fact that there was quite some woodland around the area at that time. Obviously - also there were large quantities of fish bones, limpets, oyster, mussel and scallop shells.
Cereal and Plant Remains
Cereals and plant remains have also been recovered which would suggest that the people had a wide and varied diet.
Some very fine composite bone combs were recovered - consisting of five bone teeth and a handle of two pieces of decorated bone, these combs are held together with iron rivets.
Historical Importance - Iron Age Village
Found at Bosta on the northern end of Great Bernera was a network of 9 stone buildings all connected by tunnels. It is the most completely preserved late-Iron Age village ever found in this country.
Due to the exposed position of the site and mobility of the sand, it was impossible to leave the structures as excavated, and they were backfilled with sand. The tops off the original walls of two of the houses can be seen.
400 - 800AD
The replica of the Iron Age House which is currently open to visitors gives a real insight into how the residents of Bosta lived in The Iron Age. Date from 400 - 800 AD.
The type of building has been called a ‘jelly bean house’ due to its ground plan. It was actually gales in 1993 that exposed the remains. The house is accessed by a path that crosses the dunes and then a small wooden bridge.
Inside The Iron Age House
When I went inside I realised that the "house" was larger than it looked from the outside and that it could actually accommodate more persons than I had imagined.
The house had a large main room about 6m in diameter with a smaller room - probably a store room - on the North side.
The houses were built into the sand with double-skinned dry-stone walls. The lady who looks after the "house" was a brilliant "guide" and local historian.
The house actually has two rooms, one smaller and lower than the other. This one was probably used for storage purposes.
Raised Platform for Children to Sleep
There was raised platform - which would have been used for the children for sleeping. The houses were quite well camouflaged - with only their thatched roofs showing.
In fact when warriors in that period came by sea to attack the coastal villages - it would have been easy to miss the Iron Age Village from their passing ships.
The Fire Burns in The Iron Age House
When we visited the lady local historian who cares for the House was keeping the fire burning, the smoke being taken out by a hole in the Ceiling
She had the small fire burning in the centre of the house - in much the same way as it would have been burning all day, in those Iron Age times. There was a hole in the middle of the room - which served to allow the light in - whilst allowing some of the smoke to get out
There were a couple of tiny square slits that might have been classed as windows - but as they were so small - not much actual light got into the house and it really was dark.. You needed a few moments to get your eyes accustomed to the darkness.
Various items reproducing the life of the period were scattered around the interior of the house such as peats, baskets, drying meats, and a rope making kit. -along with the clay pots which were positioned around the fire.
These had been created by the lady who was showing us around - and she had used the pottery methods that would have been used in The Iron Age to create the cooking pots - even down to using milk to make a glaze for the pottery (What a clever and talented lady!)
Several pottery items of course were discovered during the excavations and these proved very useful in assessing exactly how the pottery items would have been used - the items that the lady had created were in fact created to match these finds etc.
Since there would have been quite a number of persons living in such an Iron Age house - and all the cooking was carried out in that one open room - as well as the entire family sleeping in that small space and the fact that any of their "food" stores would have also been stored in this same place - it is obvious that the house really would have had a pungent aroma
An astonisingly pretty beach with brightly coloured rock stratas. Some of the oldest rocks on the island. Bosta, situated at the north end of the Island of Great Bernera an island connected to The Isle of Lewis by a bridge. The crushed shell white glistening beach is stunning.....
The Geology of the Outer Hebrides is really important - as the predominant rock type is a Lewisian Gneiss - a metamorphic rock which is astonishingly up to 3 billion years old, making it the oldest rock in Britain - two thirds the age of the Earth......