Past & Present

The Farmers of the Neolithic

The people who set up standing stones and large burial cairns were the stone-using Neolithic farmers in the islands. They built their homes of stone and cleared patches of land so that there was good grazing for their small cattle and sheep. They turned the soil to grow ancient types of wheat and barley. They made clay pots and used stone tools. They were hunters, gatherers, and occasional fishers. However, the evidence for their daily life has largely been destroyed by millennia of farming or the rising sea level. In some instances the remains have been buried by the incoming sand dunes or expanding peat bogs, awaiting chance discovery today, as happened at Traigh na Cleabhaig near Taobh Tuath(Northton) in the 1960s.

The legacy of the first farmers who first came to these islands around 5,700 years ago is only clearly visible at the burial and ceremonial sites that were built during the following 1,500 years. Scattered down the west side of Harris, these monuments were usually placed so that they overlooked the settled landscape. They are generally found at a boundary between farm and hill, between the known and unknown. Today, the sites that survive are quite close to the incoming sea, overlooking sandy beaches and dunes, as here and at Na Buirgh (Borve)and Clach Steineagaidh.

Next Section