This report summarises the work undertaken on the island by The
National Trust for Scotland St Kilda Archaeologist in 2002. During
the summer there were six work parties, four undertaking repair
and maintenance work and two involved in archaeological excavation.
The repair and maintenance work parties carried out a number of
tasks under archaeological supervision that included; repairing
cleit roofs, drystane dykes and planticrues; investigating the drains
around the roofed buildings and carrying out experimental lime-pointing
work, all as approved/agreed with Historic Scotland through the
Management Agreement. The archaeological work parties continued
to excavate the site on Mullach Sgar. A number of cruise ships and
smaller vessels visited with a total of approximately 1600 visitors,
a number of which came on guided walks. A coastal erosion survey
was carried out in Village Bay; the structures in Gleann Mor were
monitored; a photographic survey of certain cleitean carried out
and a photographic and measured drawing survey of the Munitions
Store was completed. Fuller reports on some of these topics will
be produced before the next season.
The post of
St Kilda Archaeologist in 2002 was held by Susan Bain, initially
this post was managed from the NTS Highlands and Islands (south)
Office in Oban, with archaeological advice from Jill Harden, NTS
Highlands and Islands Archaeologist. However with the closure of
the Oban office and the redundancy of all the staff, management
moved to the Inverness Office. The post and duties of the St Kilda
Archaeologist were unaffected by the restructuring of the NTS.
The 2002 Season
photographic survey of the coastline in Village Bay was carried
out in June. Photographs from the last coastal erosion survey in
1999 were used as a reference and also to gauge the extent of any
erosion. Previous erosion surveys had taken "face on"
or oblique views of the cliff face. This was supplemented this year
by top edge views which may better help gauge the depth of material
The survey indicated that since 1999 there had been a loss of 1m
or more from sections B, C, the lower terrace in section F and the
east end of section E. There was also noticeable erosion in section
A and E. The remaining sections were either unaffected or only had
slight vegetation loss. Whilst the rate of loss may be unusual because
of the severity and direction of the winter storms in 2001-2002,
this rate is clearly very worrying and will affect the Store.
of handmade pottery
Photograph: Susan Bain
of handmade pottery (STK02/21) were recovered from section B; a
layer of burning was also noted in this exposed section.
A fuller report on the coastal erosion will be produced.
Gleann Mor Structures - condition survey
All the structures
in Gleann Mor were re-visited this year. The photographs from previous
visits in 1996 and 1999 were taken into the field in order to replicate
the views taken and also to note any change since 1999. Most of
the structures appeared to be unchanged since the last monitoring
visit, although minor changes were noted in a few. These changes
are presumably the result of severe weather and/or the activities
of the Soay sheep.
A fuller report on the condition of the Gleann Mor structures will
Cleit Preservation Project
the 311 cleits listed for active maintenance in the Cleit Preservation
Programme (Taylor 2001), 80 did not have a complete photographic
record. Unfortunately it was not possible to visit all of them to
complete the record but 68 cleits were visited and a photograph
taken of each elevation and interior (where possible).
The majority of cleits showed no change from the description and
photographs taken between 1996 and 2001. However a few had suffered
some minor damage, these included:
Cleit 120 corner
Cleit 479 corner C/D collapse
Cleit 799 stone lintel collapse
Cleit 513 (The Chimney Cleit) corner A/B collapse
Cleit 900 recent tumble in front of side A
the seventeen cleits identified for annual monitoring in the Cleit
Preservation Programme were also re-visited and checked.
Rubble in Houses 7,9,10-13 & 16 and Blackhouse F
Agreement with Historic Scotland includes the proposal to remove
the builders' rubble from within houses 10,11 & 13 in 2002,
following appropriate investigation and consideration. The assessment
of the rubble in the houses was not completed this year but a report
will be produced before the 2003 season, so that detailed consideration
can be given to the work by Historic Scotland before the 2003 work
party season begins.
Munitions Store Survey
A standing building
survey was carried out on the Munitions Store. Where possible all
internal and external elevations were photographed (STK02:18/16-25).
All the external and two internal elevations were sketched at 1:50.
A fuller report including a statement of significance and assessment
of its condition will be produced.
the University of Glasgow continued on the eastern slopes of Mullach
Sgar. A large area was opened up to expose the 'horned structure',
structure 3 and the area in-between, in order to determine any relationship
between the two. Handmade pottery was again recovered from the area
of the horned structure. The interior of structure 3 was fully excavated
and several stone tools recovered from the floor levels. Walls of
a larger structure were exposed in the area between structure 3
and the 'horned structure' although their full extent remains unclear.
An increasing amount of time allocated to the excavation is being
spent exposing and back-filling the site. The possibility of using
repair and maintenance work parties in this process was discussed.
The St Kilda Archaeologist assisted in some of the fieldwork and
liaised with the Project Directors, Bob Will and John Duncan.
During the 12
weeks of the summer when there are work parties on the island a
great deal of the Archaeologist's time is spent working with them.
This year, as always, they were an enthusiastic and hard working
bunch with a range of skills that could be adapted and used on St
i) Sections of walling were repaired including: the dyke to south
and north of cleit 2; planticrue 3, cleitean 15, 18, 31, 36, 94
and the enclosure behind house 3. A number of artefacts were noted
during these repairs.
to the turf roofs were carried out on cleitean 3, 11, 18, 63, 73
iii) Two areas
on the east front elevation of House 14 were picked out and re-pointed
with lime mortar as specified by Historic Scotland. Each area was
re-pointed using a different mortar mix; to the west of the window
a St. Astier mix was used, a Jura Kaulk mix was used on the east
side of the window
iv) The work
parties also investigated and cleaned out the drains around Houses
1, 3 and 4 under archaeological supervision. This showed that, as
expected, the drains had been repaired and replaced in the recent
past. It also highlighted the need to include a drain clearance
schedule in every year's work programme.
The St Kilda Archaeologist investigated the nature of the drainage
around House 6. This appeared to show a complete lack of drainage
which may account for the flooding problems around and within the
house each winter. The investigation also highlighted the need for
a detailed archaeological excavation of the area prior to the drainage
works which are required before the re-roofed and re-lined house
can be fully used.
v) Damp problems
have been regularly reported over the last few years along the base
of the north wall of the church. The opportunity was taken this
year to investigate them. As part of the investigation a small exploratory
trench was dug under archaeological supervision along the north
wall. This revealed that there is no drain along the north side
gable of the church. Appropriate drainage works may be required
for this building too.
around the Factor's House was also investigated, this revealed a
corroding and leaking pipe, broken joints and lack of drainage along
one side. The joints were resealed and a soak-away put in along
the south side of the house, the silted up drainage channels above
the Factors House were also cleared. No archaeological features
were noted although a number of 19th/20th century artefacts were
A fuller report on the drains around the houses will be produced.
Brief - Mullach Sgar
The anchoring guy ropes on the radar tracking mast on Mullach Sgar
were replaced this summer. This involved the re-locating of the
concrete plinths to which the guys are attached. RJ McLeod Contractors
Ltd were contracted to carry out the works in May-June. Access to
the site was agreed on-site between RJ McLeod site manager (Donnie
Campbell) and NTS St Kilda Archaeologist (Susan Bain). Three holes
were excavated by JCB; all were approximately 1.2 square metres
in plan and varied in depth from 0.8m to 2.2m. No evidence of structures
or artefacts were noted. The use of a JCB and power barrows in wet
conditions caused some damage to the vegetation and upper soil layer.
However no archaeological features were noted.
Soay Sheep Project
Throughout the summer members of the St Kilda Soay Sheep Project
were on Hirta as usual. During the annual catch it was particularly
important that there was liaison between the Archaeologist and project
members. An introduction to the village area and an explanation
of its archaeological importance was given to all project members.
The project leaders ensured that all their staff were aware of the
issues and conditions of the Scheduled Monument Consent and ensured
the catch was carried out with all due care and attention, not only
to the sheep, but to the upstanding monuments as well. The Soay
sheep catch went successfully with no damage of note to any of the
monuments (or sheep).
- University of Aberdeen
As part of a Leverhulme programme of research into pollution on
remote Scottish Islands a research assistant, Claire Deacon, from
the University of Aberdeen spent 10 days on Hirta taking a series
of soil samples from cultivated areas. As all of the sample pits
lay within scheduled ancient monument areas the St Kilda Archaeologist
was present throughout the sampling programme. All the pits excavated
revealed homogenous cultivated soil varying in depth from 0.3m to
almost 1m. A number of artefacts were recovered from the sample
pits; these included a few sherds of 19th- 20th century ceramics,
fragments of leather, later 20th century iron fragments and a few
sherds of hand-made pottery which may be prehistoric.
The cliff face immediately in front of the Store had suffered extensive
erosion over the winter months. In order to minimise the effects
of potential future storms, and as a temporary measure until a full
assessment of coastal defences can be prepared, three gabion baskets
were placed immediately in front of the Store.
These baskets were placed on the stone foreshore and filled with
loose stones and boulders recovered from the slipway area. The area
behind them was filled with loose stones in order to avoid scouring.
This work was carried out by the St Kilda Archaeologist and Warden
and is intended merely to absorb some of the impact of winter storms
this year. It was not intended, nor should be viewed, as anything
other than a temporary measure. It was assumed that this action
would at best reduce any erosion and at worst have no effect whatsoever.
A team of erosion specialists visited St Kilda in late September
2002 and will produce a report and recommendations for future action.
Rain and frost has also caused damage to the concrete base for one
of the stays of the 1913 radio mast, located in front of the Factor's
House. The conservation department of the National Museums of Scotland
were contacted for advice as to the possibilities of repair and
the way in which such bases might be conserved for the future. It
was recommended that the Historic Scotland stone conservation workshops
should be contacted and this is now being progressed.
3.9 Island Relations
was a time of change for base staff, as the running of the base
transferred from Serco to QinetiQ. While there were some changes
in job descriptions the personnel remained the same, although this
was of course a time of uncertainty. However the base continued
to provide essential support to the St Kilda Archaeologist, not
only supplying accommodation and food but also the occasional lift
to the top of the hill and trip in the boat; they provided storage
for various boxes and materials and also the essential safety back
up for lone working.
QinetiQ staff ensured that the St Kilda Archaeologist was consulted
over issues which may be of concern, including the emplacing of
a new crash barrier on Mullach Sgar; the construction of a concrete
plinth at the POL ramp and the repainting of the zebra crossing.
The St Kilda Archaeologist liaised closely with the Warden over
issues of concern to both, including: coastal erosion, guided walks,
work party schedules, wall repairs and drain clearance. The Archaeologist
and Warden on occasion teamed up to work in areas that were particularly
remote or with difficult access eg monitoring cleits on Mullach
between the archaeologist and Yeland School, Lancashire was carried
out as part of a school project on St Kilda. Guided walks were offered
to cruise ships, all work party members, researchers and staff..
Cleit Preservation Programme
A photographic record will be taken of the few remaining cleits
in the Cleit Preservation Programme which so far are inadequately
photographed. A work plan will be drawn up for the regular monitoring
of the cleits that are to be actively maintained. The plan will
then be progressed by the St Kilda Archaeologist and work party
members every year.
4.2 Work Parties
The St Kilda Archaeologist will provide advice and guidance to the
work party leaders as required. The Archaeologist will also provide
advice and support to the professional staff that organise the archaeology
work parties for the NTS. There will also be an increase in the
secondment of work party members to work with the St Kilda Archaeologist
this year, as necessary and appropriate.
A walkover survey of the coastline in Village Bay will be undertaken
in order to assess any erosion and its impact on archaeological
deposits and structures.
The drains around Houses 2 and 5 will be investigated and cleaned
out as necessary. Following the investigation of the drains around
the other roofed buildings during the 2002 season, the forthcoming
report is bound to identify additional, necessary drainage works.
If agreed with Historic Scotland, these will be started. In particular,
the initial assessment of the drainage problem around House 6 revealed
archaeological deposits containing material from the occupation
of the house in what may be an undisturbed context. The drainage
problem must be dealt with, so it will be necessary to undertake
a full archaeological investigation of the area around House 6 before
insertion of appropriate land drains.
Assessment of Builders' Rubble
Where appropriate the rubble will be removed from the houses identified
in the Management Plan. A report on the significance of the rubble
will be produced before the 2003 season.
Bracken Control Assessment
Desk-based research, as well as field survey of the spread of bracken
in the Village Bay area will be undertaken. Proposals for any appropriate
action will be outlined in a report produced before 2004.
In this my
first year I should like to give thanks to everyone who generously
offered advice and support: Andy Robinson, St Kilda Warden; Jill
Harden, NTS Highlands and Islands Regional Archaeologist; Dave Clarke
and Tony Horne, Island supervisors and all the staff of QinetiQ
, Eurest and Movecon; all the work party leaders, cook and members
of the 2002 season; Anne May, Alasdair Oatts and Donald MacAskill,
NTS Oban office; Sally Foster, Historic Scotland; Lorna Johnstone,
GUARD (former St Kilda Archaeologist); Robin Turner, NTS Senior
Archaeologist and GUARD.