Search records

Rheast Buigh

Date(s): 1999-2000

Creator(s): Centre for Manx Studies

Administration / Biographical History: The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) decided to improve hill land for the farming tenant in the area of Rheast Buigh, Arrasey, Peel (SC 259784), south of the Arrasey plantation. More than half a square kilometre of heather moorland at a height of 255m was converted to grassland for sheep grazing. Upon clearing the vegetation Mr M. B. Pitts who had maintained a private watching brief in the area, observed that a large quartz mound (Area 2, Site C) was about to be ploughed and intervened to protect it from further disturbance. A small archaeological investigation was undertaken by Manx National Heritage (MNH) which identified both prehistoric flint tools and possible prehistoric pottery. Two seasons of excavation in 1999 and 2000 subsequently took place under the direction of Dr. P. Davey of the Centre for Manx Studies; supervised by Dr J. Woodcock and assisted by Mr Pitts and Manx volunteers. In 2001 Dr J. Woodcock gave a presentation to the Neolithic studies group in Belfast on the findings from the site.

1. 1999 season - 13th and 25th June

2. 2000 season - 16th April and 2nd May 2000

3. Presentation to the Neolithic studies group 2001

1. 1999 season - 13th and 25th June
The southerly quadrant of Site C was excavated (Trench 1) along with a further two small test pits. The mound was found to consist of freshly broken quartz fragments in the centre of which was a feature cairn likely to have been produced by biodegradable material which had subsequently collapsed.

161 flints were recovered including: flakes, blades, chunks, debris, one core, two arrowheads (proportion of), and a pot lid fractured flake. A total of 27 very small and friable fragments of prehistoric pottery, likely to be middle Neolithic in date, were uncovered, including a rim edge displaying some incised decoration. Charcoal fragments reliably associated with context (10) were collected and produced a radiocarbon date of 4695 ± 55 BP (2 sigma cal BC 3638-3358) - laboratory sample reference AA-34509 (GU-8431). A sample of peat (RB99c-8) growing over the site produced a radiocarbon date of 1060 ± 45 BP (2 sigma cal AD 891-1030), laboratory sample reference AA-34788 (GU-8450).

Seven charcoal fragments were recovered and their locations were recorded three-dimensionally. They, along with a number of soil and peat samples, were submitted to Dr P.R. Tomlinson who identified the species present as oak, hazel and possibly willow.
2. 2000 season - 16th April and 2nd May 2000
The southerly quadrant was completed and a northern one (Trench 2) opened and excavated. The new trench encountered material that was identical to that seen in Trench 1. Damp conditions allowed the stratigraphy to be seen more clearly than during the 1999 season.

A total of 163 struck flints; two small slate discs; one fragment of grooved stone; four small well-fired sherds and a number of fragments of very decomposed and poorly-fired prehistoric pottery were uncovered; examined and reported on by Jenny Woodcock.
Environmental samples were taken for pollen analysis, carbon dating and for possible phosphate analysis by Dr P.R. Tomlinson. One fragment of charcoal [RB 2000 - 2/20] was submitted to the SURRC laboratory at East Kilbride for radiocarbon dating and produced a radiocarbon date of 4640 ± 100 BP, Delta 13C rel. PDB-26.40/00 (1 sigma cal BC 3622-3345, cal BP 5572-5295, 2 sigma cal BC 3643-3041, cal BP 5593-4991), laboratory sample reference AA-39813 (GU-9111).
Some fragments of quartz were taken for thermal studies and mineral analysis by Professor T. Darvill of the School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth University in the hope of determining if the discolouration was due to natural mineralisation or burning.
The excavation of Site C concluded that a post-built raised wooden structure(s) was present at the cairn. But the association between this, the presence of the pottery fragments, the flint-working activity and the construction of the cairn itself was not clear; nor what activity was attracting the Neolithic inhabitants to the Manx uplands. To date, no convincing parallels for such a site have been found elsewhere in the British Isles.
3. Presentation to the Neolithic studies group and subsequent publication (2001)
The following year Dr J. Woodcock gave a presentation to the Neolithic studies group in Belfast on the findings from the site, entitled ‘The excavation of a middle Neolithic site in the Manx uplands: a cautionary tale’. She emphasised the importance of the site as an unknown or unrecognised class, which is not paralleled elsewhere in the British Isles. This was combined with the experience and potential problems encountered in such low-lying structures which makes them very easy to miss in the landscape and the development concerns surrounding this.

Dr Woodcock gave a similar presentation at a CMS seminar held on the Isle of Man in 2003.

Peter Davey, Jenny Woodcock, Barry Pitts, Sarah Burns
Volunteers: Orry Williams, Alan Skillan, David Fisher, Marian Hastings, Gill Eardley, Angie Greenhalgh, Geoff Woodcock, Hazel Hannan, Marion Hastings and Andrew Jamieson, Mr R. L. Hughes, Mr David Holgate.

Language: English

Collection: Manuscript Archive


ID number: MS 14146/47

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