The research is concerned with the analysis of four field identified floors from three
multi-period archaeological sites (Bostadh Beach, Isle of Lewis, Cladh Hallan and
Bornais, South Uist) in the Western Isles, Scotland.
The method employed in the analysis of these four floors is soil micromorphology, a
technique that is now established in archaeological analysis, but one that has been
seldom applied to deposits in the Western Isles. In particular, the application of the
technique to floor sequences in the Western Isles is unique, given that floors have
rarely been analysed or even substantially documented in archaeological excavations
of structures in the islands.
There are three main aims in the analysis of these floors: 1) to highlight the
significance and importance of microscale analysis of floors, 2) to determine their
composition, formation and possible use, 3) to establish microstructural criteria and
characterisation of different materials used for floors.
The analysis has revealed that the floors between the three different sites are
extremely different. At Bostadh, the floors are dominated by highly organic
materials, whilst Cladh Hallan and Bornais floors are sand dominated with fine
organic matter. The most interesting feature of the analysis is that a floor which has
been described as a singular deposit in the field, can be composed of upto 21
individual floor layers. This has implications for the information that a potential floor
deposit can yield, particularly with regard to the function and use of space within a
structure over a depositional sequence.
Micromorphological descriptions followed the international terminology of Bullock
et al (1985) and Fitzpatrick (1984), with some adaptations. Organic description has
detailed that different types of peat were used at Bostadh, whilst mineralogical
analysis has indicated the possibility of cleaning or abandonment episodes. Analysis
at Cladh Hallan has aided in the interpretation of the use of space within the
structure, although these results only form part of on-going research elsewhere.
The research has successfully described micromorphological characteristics of floors
developed from two different materials, and has highlighted the implications and
importance for the archaeological record of a settlement, through the analysis of
floors. Recommendations concerning the collection and sampling for future floors
have also been made.