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Enigma beneath the peat

Early in the 20th century, local crofters cutting peat near the township of Upper Shader discovered an archaeological site buried beneath 1m of peat.

‘Steinacleit’, as it came to be known, consisted of a large circular structure to which was attached an oval walled enclosure. At the time, the site was thought to be a chambered cairn of late Neolithic date (c.2000 BC), with an attached stone setting.

The monument has never been investigated, but recent excavations elsewhere in the Western Isles have discovered remains of similar, if less substantial, structures. These structures have been found among the sand-dunes of Harris, North Uist and Benbecula. They have proved to be settlements, not cemeteries, occupied in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. So Steinacleit may not be a burial site after all, but the house and yard of an early farmer.

  • Buried evidence – a column of peat is still visible near the site, showing the depth to which it was buried.