3.0 The Neolithic chambered cairns of South Uist

3.1 The setting

map showing location of South Uist
Fig. 2a. South Uist, Outer Hebrides

In 1998, as part of a broader scheme of research into the archaeology of the Western Isles, a small survey of the Neolithic chambered cairns of South Uist was undertaken (Cummings et al. forthcoming). Little is known about the Neolithic of South Uist, although environmental work has taken place on the island (Gilbertson et al. 1996), including a comprehensive vegetational history (Brayshay and Edwards 1996). More is known from other islands in the Outer Hebrides, where excavations have taken place over the past few years. The settlement sites of Eilean Domhnuill on North Uist (Armit 1992; 1996) and Alt Chrysal on Barra (Foster 1995) have given us a unique glimpse of domestic life on the islands (Henley 1999), while the excavations at many of the chambered tombs have revealed some aspects of ritual life (Armit 1996; Beveridge 1911; Dunwell 1997; Scott 1935 and 1947 ). It was against this background that the survey was completed, primarily to update Henshall's 1972 inventory as well as analysing and interpreting the landscape settings of the sites.

map showing location of Neolithic cairns - click numbers to view individual sites sigmore1 hukarvat1 reineval1 frobost1 bharp1 trossary1 leaval1 Fig. 2b. Location of cairns on South Uist (click to view individual sites).

The island is fairly sparsely populated compared with Britain as a whole and it currently comprises three main environmental areas: the machair plain, peaty moorlands (located in the centre of the island and where most modern habitation is found) and mountains (to the east).


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