A visit to the Bosta Iron Age House
In a small little bay on Great Bernera is a little gem. A recreation of an Iron Age House. The recreation is based on excavations of an Iron Age Village discovered in 1993 due to strong winds eroding the sand dunes. Due to the erosion, the site was threatened and the sites was excavated in 1996.
Four houses were discovered, although it is thought the village had probably once extended right across the present beach. The main settlement was occupied during the Late Iron Age. The village comprised of a cluster of semi-sunken circular or cellular buildings, each with a rectangular central hearth and at least one smaller chamber opposite the main entrance.
The wide range of finds and environmental information gives a vivid picture of the lifestyle of the villagers, who lived by mixed farming, fishing, hunting and collecting seafood and seabirds. The earliest levels underneath this phase of the village were not investigated, but shortly after the end of the settlement, a Viking house had been built over the site, from which the name ‘Bostadh’ (meaning farm in Old Norse) presumably derived. The site was re-occupied in more recent times, until scarcity of fuel forced the village to be abandoned in 1875. The remains of many of these abandoned blackhouses can be seen around Bostadh.
Views of the Iron Age House
The house is a two celled building, the first room is overall with a central hearth and an area for storing peat. The second room is a square room which archaeologists think was used as a work room. There also shelves created in the back wall of this room as can been seen in the picture above. The roof is of timber construction, covered in turf. This is a leading theory for the room construction on Lewis as turd if plentiful and easy to repair. The Roof on the inside has a suspended floor/loft which has been interpreted as living and storing space.
Information and Interpretation
There are a series of information boards on the approach to the house describing the discovery, excavation and interpretation of the house and village. Most of which is included above and I am not going to expand on here. There was also a very knowledgeable guide at the house who shared the factual information about the discovery and excavation and excavation, but also shared her views of working there for the past twenty year. She is explained about the different temperature conditions on the main circular room when the fire is light, on the right hand side is stays very cool, whilst on the back and to the left and at the back is the warmest are of the house. She also had a differing view on the second room of the house, according to her this room gets very little daylight and gets very cold. She puts forward a theory that this room might have been more likely to be a room for storing food, wool, hides etc… Her experiences were very interesting to hear as an archaeologist, and I think very valuable as she has spent an extended time in the house and has had the time to experiment and really feel what it is like.
The house for me is a little gem, it is well presented and easily accessible information and interpretation, even If I do not agree with all of it ;). The guide was the biggest highlight for me and her experiences added an extra depth to the experience. The only major downside for me is that the house is not easily accessible, and certainly not if you have mobility issues. But it is definitely worth a visit if you are ever on Lewis.