Monday, 19 June 2006


Just west of Lewis lies the island of Great Bernera, not to be confused with the island of Berneray off North Uist. On its northern end lies the beach of Bostadh [Bosta]. This area is uninhabited, but in years gone by people did live there. Nowadays, there is only a cemetery.

Bosta Beach, looking north towards Old Hill
In 1992, a violent storm shifted the sands on the beach and the adjacent hillside to reveal the remains of an iron-age house. Little is known about it or the people that lived there some 2,000 years ago, but a valiant effort has been made to recreate the Iron Age House.

The Iron Age House, as seen from the approach path

Below is copied the information from the plaque at the house:

This house is a reconstruction based upon the late Iron Age "jelly baby" houses excavated nearby. It was built using the techniques that were available at that time. No physical evidence of roofing survived on the archeological site; the design of this roof was dictated by the shape and strength of the walls; the dividing walls between the two cells are too weak to support a superstructure. The ridged roof is a major departure from the circular roofs of the wheelhouses and brochs of the earlier Iron Age, and a precursor of the traditional blackhouse roof.

The entrance passage was curved to break the strength of any high winds and sloped from ground level to the interior floor level. The purpose of the small chamber in this passage is unknown. The main room may have been subdivided into living and sleeping areas. The use of the space in the roof is conjectural, we have indicated a sleeping area. The small chamber was possibly used by the women for their work. The artefacts represent those discovered on the original site. The central hearth is aligned north to south. This may have been for practical of ritual reason. We do not know if there was any artificial or indeed natural lighting. Perhaps a piece of the thatch was removed when practicable.

Many questions that arose from the excavations were answered by a practical exercise such as this, and much has been learnt that aids interpretation of future excavations at similar sites. It is hoped that the reconstruction will also help visitors to the site to have a more complex and realistic experience of the reality of living in this type of dwelling.

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