Hallan Roundhouses (Cladh Hallan)
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
The northernmost house appears to have acted as a 'house of the dead', a place for cremation and storage of human bones.
The largest house is the middle one, which originally had a cellar, but this has now been filled in. This house had a very long lifetime, being occupied from about 1100 BCE to 200 BCE, which would make it one of the longest-inhabited prehistoric houses anywhere in the world. During those 9 centuries the house was rebuilt at least seven times.
By contrast, the south house beside it was in use for only a short time after it was built around 1100 BCE. The roof and walls were then dismantled and the area was used for farming and then as a dump for dog poo (did the ancient people of Uist have a taboo against dog fouling?).
The Cladh Hallann site was abandoned around 200 BCE, at a time when new forms of dwellings became prominent (such as duns and wheelhouses).
One intriguing feature of the Hallann roundhouses is that the builders appear to have buried human bodies, perhaps even sacrificed children, under the floors, maybe as a ceremonial offering. The large middle house has the corpse of a 12 year old girl beneath the floor, and it has been suggested thatr this corpse shows signs of being a human sacrifice. The corpse of a three year old child was found beneath the floor of the south house. Also buried under the floor were pots, grinding stones, and sheep. Is this evidence of a form of religious offering?
The Cladh Hallann Mummies
Even more interesting was what was found beneath the north house, where the mummified remains of a man and woman were discovered. The couple were wrapped and their internal organs removed and then buried in peat to preserve the remains. Examination of the mummified remains presented some startling facts; the woman's body was about 200 years old when buried. A pair of her teeth were extracted and placed in her hands. But that is nothing to what archaeologists found when they examinmed the male mummy. The jaw and head were of two different males, and the torso from a third. The third male died around 1500 BCE, about 4 centuries before it was buried. So it seems that the inhabitants of the wheelhouse assembled bits and peces of various ancestors and carefully preserved the remains by mummification. We do not know exactly what beliefs these acts might signify, but it seems clear that some sort of reverence for ancestors was at work here.
The roundhouses are signposted off the A865 at Dalabrog. Follow the signs to almost the end of the road where a large power pylon stands. From there a level track leads across the machair to the roundhouses where there are information signs explaining the history of the site.
About Hallan Roundhouses (Cladh Hallan)
Address: Dalabrog, South Uist, Western Isles, Scotland
Attraction Type: Prehistoric Site
Location: Signposted off the A865 at Dalabrog. Park by the power pylon and follow the signed trail into the machair.
Website: Hallan Roundhouses (Cladh Hallan)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Opening Details: Open access site, usually accessible at any reasonable time
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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Kildonan Museum - 3.6 miles (Museum)
Pollachar Standing Stone - 4.6 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Dun Vulan - 5 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Ormacleit Castle - 6.2 miles (Castle)
An Carra Standing Stone - 6.8 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Nearest Accommodation to Hallan Roundhouses (Cladh Hallan):
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