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Eigg Archeology and Historical Sites

In 2001 and 2002, the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland carried out a detailed archaeological survey of Eigg during, and their preliminary report may be seen here: www.rcahms.gov.uk/showcaseeigg

Here are some of the important dates in Eigg Archeology.

  • Prehistory: Evidence of settlement goes back to the Mesolithic and find of axe heads dating to the New Stone Age have also been recorded. Graves marked by cairns span the long period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. Hill forts date back to the Iron Age.
  • Pictish Eigg: In the Dark Ages, Eigg is situated at the northern frontier of the pictish kingdome, as shown by the ornate cross slab recovered on the island and the square pictish graves found at Laig.
  • Early Christianity: in the seventh century, Donnan evangelised the island after travelling throughout north west Pictland. After his death in 617, the monastery he founded came under Iona's rule and flourished. Several Early Christian crosses recovered from this site attest of its importance at the time.
  • The Viking age: Viking invaders raided the island then settled there from the 8th century. A magnificent Scandinavian sword-handle and parts of a long ship recovered on Eigg are now part of the New Museum of Scotland's collection.
  • Lordship of the isles: The hybrid Norse-Gaelic culture which developed in the Hebrides culminated in the flourishing of Lordship of the Isles in medieval times. A beautiful cross-shaft dating back to that period is erected in the Kildonnan graveyard. The ruined chapel at Kildonnan also dates back from this time. It also features a 16th century burial aisle displaying the heraldic shield of the Clanranald chiefs, a powerful branch of Clan Donald, in whose ownership Eigg remained for 400 years.
  • Clan times: Runrigs and earthen dykes are the remains of the division of the island into 8 farms in clan time. The township ruins and field enclosure in Grulin offer a good example of what an 18th century farm would have looked like.
  • Age of Improvement: Many of the island's historic farmhouses - Laig, Kildonnan, Galmisdale, Hulin - date back to the time when the clan aristocracy grew prosperous through the harvest of kelp in the 18th century. The Manse was the first two storey building erected on the island. The mill at Kildonnan also dates back to the Age of Improvement.
  • Crofting and Clearances: The Cleadale crofting landscape shows the division in narrow strips which marked the changes brought about in the 19th century, when land was given over to sheep during the Clearances and many island townships disappeared. 5 Pennies in the north end of the island, and Braigh, north of Kildonnan are good examples of clearance ruins.
  • The sporting estate: From the late 19th century, the use of the island for sporting purposes also left its mark with the erection of successive lodges, of which one has survived, the B listed Italianate Lodge built by the Runciman family in the 1930's in the shelter of mixed woodland planted to encourage pheasant and other games.
  • School and Churches: Completing the span of buildings with historic interest on the island, are also the old parochial school, still used as the island primary school, and the island churches, the 1862 Small Isles parish church in Simple Gothic style, and the 1910 Art and Crafts Catholic chapel of St Donnan.
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