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Block Eary

Period: Late Medieval

NGR Easting: 240050

NGR Northing: 489570

Description: Medieval shieling. This is probably one of the largest shieling settlements on the Island, comprising about 30 structures. Five of the mounds were excavated between 1958 and 1960, and the results have had a profound influence on understanding medieval life in the Manx uplands.

Excavation of Mound A revealed that the earliest phase of activity consisted of a circular stone foundation for a turf-walled roundhouse 5m in diameter. The roundhouse was partially reconstructed before being levelled and the resulting platform providing the foundation for another structure. The rough construction suggested a workshop or animal house rather than a dwelling. Later, this building too fell into ruin and the site was later re-used for a series of turf shieling huts.

These shieling huts were oval or roughly circular in shape, with walls constructed mainly of turf. They were on a much smaller scale than the roundhouse at the base of Mound A: the interior dimensions varied in size from only 2.5 to 4m across internally. Most of the excavated examples had a central hearth, though signs of external hearths were also found.

All of the mounds excavated revealed that the turf structures were prone to collapse and had to be regularly repaired or replaced entirely. Frequent reconstruction on the same site formed a mound on top of which are the remains of the final structure.

The huts were probably not all used for human occupation; Gelling suggested that cheese-making may have been undertaken, and another structure might have served as a corn-drying kiln before being remodelled. Other buildings may have served as animal shelters when required.

The excavations revealed very few artefacts, and the dating of the seasonal activity associated with shielings is difficult to pin down. The evidence from Mound A suggests that shielings postdate the Iron Age, and the discovery of a single 12th century coin shows that people had been in the area around that time. It remains unclear when shielings were finally abandoned.

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Site & Monument Type: shieling

Category: National Monuments Record: Statutory Ancient Monuments

Site ID number: 1070.00