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Caillich (Uamh) [Ledaig]

Benderloch, Ledaig, Argyllshire.

NGR:NM 90560 37580
WGS84:56.48361, -5.40301
Length:Not recorded
Vert. Range:Not recorded
Altitude:Not recorded
Geology:Kerrera Sandstone Formation - Conglomerate
Tags:Cave, Archaeo

Raised beach rock shelter. Either side of cave entrance the cliff face slopes outward.

Human remains found by owner landscaping at Cliff House NM 9051 3799. AOC excavated under Human Remains Call-off Contract 21-22 May 2007. Landscaping impacted raised beach rock shelter. Most deposits, incl. midden material, disturbed, removed from site. Remaining in situ soils held decorated prehistoric pottery (prob. Food Vessel), 1 worked bone tool & small amount of human bone. Small mammal bones & marine shells in disturbed material. Human bone indicates 2 adults & 1 adolescent bone pointing to 3rd. Fieldwork in favourable working conditions. Disturbed material did not hold further human remains. Small amount of bone visible in disturbed material & spoil heap obviously derived from animals, mostly small mammals. Single long bone & lower jaw only definite human remains found. Long bone in situ, jaw bone from disturbed material. Assemblage recovered by Police & Dr. Jennifer Miller, examined by Dr Stuart McDonald, human bones of at least 2 & prob. 3 individuals. From pelvic morphology & arthritic change of vertebral column, aged female. Vertebral column, all lumbar vertebrae, sacrum & paired hip bones from this individual. 2nd individual deduced from 2nd right femur & right hip bone. Uncertain sex of 2nd subject & also to which subject mandible belongs. 3rd subject indicated by left metacarpal bone with nearly closed epiphyseal growth plate, indicative of late adolescence. This may be only bone of 3rd individual (also possible juvenile pubic bone.) Intact & fragmentary thoracic vertebrae also from separate & smaller person. Bones recovered by Police & Dr. Miller from disturbed material & contexts unclear beyond being from cave. Among bones Dr. McDonald noted sheep/goat & cow bones with rarer pig bones. Long bones & mandibles present. Bird bones & selection of marine shells including, limpet, oyster & mussels also identified. Stratigraphy, based primarily on sediment stains on adjacent cliff face suggest 2 periods of midden activity with intervening deposit of sand across the cave floor. Middens directly over rocky scree talus. Between base of cave & vertical cliff , a fissure, on north side only infilled with deposit containing decorated prehistoric pottery sherd & worked bone tool, also long bone presumed human. Cave walls suggest extension of main context but material removed prior to works lost any actual stratigraphic link. Multiple burials, at least 3 individuals. Fragmentary remains & unfortunate discovery (lack of stratigraphic sequence or relationships) mean little concluded about burial rite, or age of burials. Bodies incomplete & possibly cave was ossuary similar to Carding Mill Bay II. Prehistoric pottery, from possible Food Vessel, hints at Bronze Age activity but relationship to burial unknown. Small quantity of archaeological deposits of unknown date, primarily stony deposits with rarer midden material. Upper surface held ceramic teapot lid & pictures prior to works show cave open & visible. Possible last vestiges of cave fill relate to recent times with earlier material, lower in sequence, lost. Radiocarbon dates for human remains range from c. 2200 BC -1900 BC, in range for use of Food Vessels in Scotland. Reasonable Food Vessel is associated with one or more burials despite discovery in lower deposit not rocky scree talus. Date of midden above scree 1770 - 1530 BC at 2 sigma, later than closely correlated dates from human bones. Conversely, cereal grain from cave side slightly earlier than bones, suggests this layer predates bone & unlikely to equate with midden layer. Date 2290 BC - 2030 BC still in range associated with Food Vessels (23rd to 19th century BC). Excavation dates correlate closely with available stratigraphic evidence & artefactual evidence. Layers of animal bone assemblages typical of midden deposition, carcass butchery, disposal & cooking waste. Shells from common edible shellfish species abundant. Cereal grains in contexts indicate likelihood of midden deposits separated by sterile layer appearing natural, possibly a storm, blowing sand over middens; or slower build up, over weeks, years or centuries. Worked bone artefact, split long bone with bevelled working edge, probably used for scraping or burnishing, possibly during treatment of hides. Tools of this type span from Neolithic to 1st Millennium AD. Human remains in caves in Oban not uncommon & well documented, if not so well excavated & retrieved. As at Benderloch, most found by building development, destroying caves & associated deposits.

Alternate Names: Uamh Caillich, Woman's Cave,Uamh na Callich, Old Woman (Cave of the ), Cave of the Old Woman

Notes: Although the cave has been known since at least the 19th century, the cave name is modern and not grammatical Gaelic . Therefore, it does not have the historical connotations relating to the historical use of the word Caillich for Woman (i.e. old woman, witch or goddess).

About 1869, a food vessel was recovered from a cave at the foot of Creag an Eig, Ledaig, but there is no record of any burial remains. The urn is a well preserved, entire speciman 4" in height and ornamented on the upper portion by rows of oblique strokes executed by finger nail. It is now in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS). The cave, pointed out by Mrs McPhaill of Altnamara is formed of two leaning conglomerated boulders at the foot of the cliff by the road. It measures 5 metres deep by 2 metres in width and is 1 metre high. It is half blocked by rubbish. [Canmore]

Hydrographic Feeds: Now None, previously Firthof Lorn, Ardmuckish Bay

Hydrographic Resurgences: Now None, previously Firthof Lorn, Ardmuckish Bay

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This entry was last updated: 2020-11-02 14:18:25

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