History of Finland between 4000 BC - 1501 BC
Around 5300 BCE, - probably - pottery was present in Finland. The earliest samples belong to the Comb Ceramic Cultures, known for their distinctive decorating patterns. This marks the beginning of the neolithic period for Finland, although the subsistence was still based on hunting and fishing. Extensive networks of exchange existed across Finland and Northeastern Europe during the 5th millennium BCE. For example, flint from Scandinavia and Valdai Hills, amber from Scandinavia and the Baltic region and slate from Scandinavia and Lake Onega found their ways into the Finnish archeological sites undes excavatons today and asbestos and soap stone from e.g. the area of Saimaa spread outside of Finland. Rock paintings - apparently related to shamanistic and totemistic belief systems - have been found, especially in Eastern Finland, e.g. Astuvansalmi.
From 3200 BCE onwards, either immigrants or a strong cultural influence from south of the Gulf of Finland settled in Southwestern Finland. This culture was a part of the European Battle Axe cultures, which have often been associated with the movement of the Indo-European speakers. The Battle-Axe - or Cord Ceramic - culture seems to have practiced agriculture and animal husbandry outside of Finland, but the earliest confirmed traces of agriculture in Finland date later, approximately to the 2nd millennium BCE. Further inland, the societies retained their hunting-gathering lifestyles for the time being. The Battle axe and the Comb Ceramic cultures merged, giving rise to the Kiukainen culture which existed between 2300 BCE and 1500 BCE, featuring fundamentally a comb ceramic tradition with cord ceramic characteristics.
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.