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HOUSE ISLAND - EILEAN AN TIGHE

Page 2 of Site Descriptions Back to House Island Page 1

HI 12 Island Map NGR NG 4194 9751
Interpretation: Stone working area. Positive.
Location:
Midway along the crag cliff, that rises to the eastern uplands above the north-western coastal shelf, the face is severely eroded and fractured resulting in a mass of scree debris at the base of the slope. A chipped stone working area has been identified at the southerly end of the scree.
Description: In general the scree is of quite large blocky rock fragments except for one distinct area where a mass of smaller chips and flakes can be found. Several small tabular blocks show evidence for crude percussive shaping, also displaying a less weathered surface than larger obviously unworked scree material.
Provisional date: Early modern.
Recording: Nil.
Photographic record: Colour print: Film 2. Print 31. Black and White: Film 2 print 15.
Notes: Although chipped stone working in an archaeological context is usually considered a pre-Iron Age activity, such an industry has been recently proven for the early modern period in the Western Isles, notably on St Kilda (Fleming 1995). Several worked stone flakes have been found during the excavations of the blackhouse HI 15A (Foster 2000), but have been found, on analysis to be a rock type more readily found on Skye. The local manufacture of stone implements during the 18th to 19th centuries should not be surprising considering the cost of metal tools to an impoverished island community. The substitution of stone digging implements (hoe blades are a common example) for their metal counterpart would have resulted in a less efficient tool, but one that was still perfectly able to perform.

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HI 13 Island Map NGR NG 4188 9748
Interpretation: Modern sheep fank. Positive.
Location:
At the southern end of the western coastal shelf close to the foreshore. Marked on the OS map.
Description: A pen of wire and posts. Not described this year.
Provisional date: Modern.
Recording: Nil.
Photographic record: Nil. but can be seen on the general colour print Film 4. Print 98.

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HI 14 Island Map NGR NG 4197 9728
Interpretation: Kale yard. Positive.
Location:
At the north end of the west coast central plateau mid-way between the western slopes down to the sea shore and the eastern slopes up to the highlands. Marked on the 1889 map and the current OS map.
Description: A slightly oval drystone walled enclosure of 8.50m. north to south by 10.25m. east to west. There is a 0.60m. gap on the southern side which may have been the entrance. The stonework, which is uncoursed rubble work, still stands in places to just over 1m. high although in many other places it has tumbled. In the interior the soil is banked up against the inner wall face leaving a slightly hollow central area, but the soil levels inside the enclosure appear to be generally greater than outside. This suggests that the main purpose of the structure was to protect an area used for garden produce from the general livestock. Mary Harman also suggests that it may also have been used to protect hayricks.
Provisional date: Late 18th to mid-19th century.
Recording: A measured ground plan drawn. (VP+JZ)
Photographic record: Colour print: Film 2. Print 29. Black and White: Film 2. Print 25.

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HI 15 Island Map NGR NG 4199 9726
Interpretation: Blackhouse 15A with attached barns 15B + C with external paving 15D. Positive - Proved by excavation.
Location:
Some 25m. to the south-west of the kelp yard HI 14 in the west coast central plateau. Marked on the OS and 1889 maps.
Description: Site HI 15 is a farmstead complex consisting of, 15A blackhouse; 15B barn attached to north side; 15C barn/porch attached to south side; 15D a paved area around eastern end of the blackhouse and barn 15B; 15E an attached enclosure on the south and west sides. The blackhouse, barn B and area D have been partially excavated.
Provisional date: Unidentified late medieval structures and deposits underlying late 18th to mid 19th century blackhouse HI 15A. The north barn HI 15B is stratigraphically of significantly later built than the blackhouse
Recording: Detailed excavation plans and section drawings. Site HI15A + D (LC) Site HI15B (PL). General measured ground plan survey of blackhouse, barns and enclosure drawn. (VP+LZ)
Photographic record: Colour prints: Blackhouse 15A. Film 2. Print 28, 44, 47-50. Film 3. Print 55-57. Film 4. Print 86-91, 100. Film 5. Print 121-124, 126. Film 7. Print 140-144, 147. Barn 15B. Film 2. Print 28, 44, 46. Film 3. Print 51/52, Film 4. Print 101/102. Film 5. Print 112-115, 117-120, 125, 127-135. Film 7. Print 139, 144, 151-162. Barn 15C. Film 2. Print 23, 44/45. Film 3. Print 54. Film 7. Print 144. Paved Area D. Film 3. Print 53. Film 7. Print 144, 148-150. Black and White: Blackhouse 15A. Film 1. Print 1-4. Film 3. Print 60-64. Film 5. Print 122-150. Film 6. Print 171-186.Film 7. Print 190-192. Barn 15B. Film 1. Print 5. Film 3. Print 55-59. Film 4. Print 120/121. Film 5. Print 151/152. Film 6. Print 153-166, 172, 181-186. Film 7. 190-192. Barn 15C. Film 1. Print 6.Film 6. Print 172. Paved Area 15D. Film 6. Print 167-170, 172.

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HI 16 Island Map NGR NG 4200 9723
Interpretation: Small Blackhouse or bothy with attached 'barn'. Positive.
Location:
On west coast central plateau 60m. south-east from the blackhouse HI 15 and mid-way between the west coast and the eastern highland crags. Marked on the OS and 1889 maps.
Description: The house: The superstructure has suffered some deterioration, especially the outer wall faces, which appear to have distorted the original ground plan, which was most likely more of a regular sub-rectangular shape than is at present visible. The present dimensions are 8.75m. north to south and 5.25m east to west with the 0.60m. wide entrance facing east at mid-point in the east long wall. The northern end wall is built at an angle and an inward bulge in the western wall allows only approximate internal dimension of 5.50m. north to south and 3m. east to west. The wall thickness is variable, not only because of erosion and collapse, but also from construction since the southern end wall (party wall to the attached barn) is deliberately of thinner (1m.wide) construction than the rest. The front eastern and north end walls appear to be least damaged and are between 1.25m and 1.50m. thick. The west wall survives between only 0.80m and 1.25m. in width. Wall construction is of the usual two uncoarsed rubble drystone wall faces filled with earth. The inner face has survived best and still stands to almost a meter in contrast to the west wall whose outer face appears to have largely collapsed. The 'barn': The initial impression that the barn is an attachment to the house may be in error and in fact it may be that the house is a later construction occupying the northern portion of a larger, earlier turf built house. This conclusion is drawn mainly from the evidence of the junction with the west wall of the barn to the house, which, although not clearly visible, can be seen in the ground plan to be completely passing west outside the line of the house wall by 0.30m. The barn walls are at present visible as a low earthen bank, 1.75m. wide, giving the impression that its original construction was or turf, however it is quite likely, in view of the possibility that the barn is in reality an earlier house, that what now remains is the earthen core of an earlier stone clad wall that has been robbed of its stone facing to provide material for the later, smaller house. The external dimensions are approximately 7m. wide east to west (4.50m. internally) and 4.80m. north to south (3.25m. internally). The present doorway is east facing, 0.75m. wide, and offset from the house wall by a short (0.25m.) narrow (1m. wide) stub of walling.
Provisional date: Late 18th to mid 19th century.
Recording: Measured ground plan drawn. (VP+LZ)
Photographic record: Colour print: Film 2. Print 27. Black and White: Film 2. Print 17.

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HI 17 Island Map NGR NG 4201 9717
Interpretation: Kiln house with attached enclosure. Positive.
Location:
West coast central plateau 80m. south of house HI 16.
Description: The kiln house: A rectangular building (7.50x5.50m. externally, with an entrance 0.75m. wide in the west facing end wall) orientated east to west to take advantage to the prevailing westerly winds rather than being protected from them. The walls are of the usual earth filled stone faced construction with generally sharply angled external corners except for the north east corner which is markedly curved. There is a central dividing wall 0.75m. wide that separates a small rectangular open area (2.50m east to west by 2m north to south with sharp angled internal corners) from the eastern half of the building which is occupied by the flue arrangements of the kiln. A flue or stoke hole at the southern end of the central dividing wall allows an air flow into the kiln from the west room. In the south west corner of the west room a small arrangement of upright stones of unknown function are set. The enclosure: The associated enclosure to the south of the kiln house is butted on one side to the south east corner of the kiln house, but at the other junction, at the west end of the kiln house, the enclosure wall, which is generally of piled stone construction, takes on a more architectural nature and has the appearance of being the end of a building - with internally curved wall corners, an entrance to the north and a junction with the kiln house that is apparently integrated. This however may be illusory and represents nothing more than some elaborate entrance facility to the enclosure. The enclosure has a trapezoidal ground plan, 15.80m. long orientated north to south with the kiln house at the north east corner. The north boundary, which includes the buildings (and in fact appears to have been tailored to suit their overall dimensions), is 11.50m wide while the southern boundary is 14m. across. Provisional date: Late 18th to mid 19th century.
Recording: Stone by stone measured ground plan drawing of kiln house and measured ground plan drawing of attached enclosure. (VP+LZ)
Photographic record: Colour Print: Film 2. Print 15/16. Film 4. Print 109. Black and White: Film 2 Print 26-31, 36-38.

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HI 18 Island Map NGR NG 4199 9716
Interpretation: Small Blackhouse or bothy with attached enclosure/building. Positive. Location: The central western coastal plateau some 30m. south west from the kiln house enclosure HI 17. Marked on the OS as a 10m square and on the 1889 map as a square building with a rectangular enclosure of the same width attached to the west side giving an overall orientation of east to west and opposite that found on the ground at present.
Description: Excavation could well alter the simple description given here for this monument. The enclosure, at its southern end where it is integrated with the house is of substantial construction suggestive of a building rather than a simple enclosure. The northern section may only appear to be less substantial due to stone robbing. There is a strong possibility that the house part of the monument is a later construction or a modified barn to the enclosure/building. This possibility could easily result in stone robbing from the north end of the enclosure. The house: The ground plan is of a rectangular building orientated east to west (7.75x5m. external dimensions - 5x2.50m internal space) with a east facing doorway, 1m. wide, offset to the north end of the east wall. All of the wall corners, both internal and external are rounded and the general construction of the usual double uncoarsed rubble wall skin with an earthen core. In elevation the external face is relatively vertical, but the internal face is significantly battered giving measurements of 1m. at the top down to 1.50m at the base. The associated enclosure is to the north and the northern house wall appears to be extensively built over the south enclosure wall, which is itself quite substantial, the house walls standing to almost one meter and the south enclosure wall being only slightly less so. The enclosure/building: Orientated north to south this monument has a rectangular ground plan with rounded corners both internally and externally. If the south wall can be assumed to include the full width of the north house wall then external measurements can be allowed at 10m. north to south and 6m. east to west with more certain internal dimensions of 7.50x3.50m. which provide measurements well within the range acceptable for a blackhouse of modest size. The walls vary in thickness between 1.10m and 1.75m. being thicker on the south and west sides, especially where they stand to a greater height. There is no apparent entrance, however sections of the walls further from the south are reduced to almost insignificance, presumably from stone robbing, that a definite statement without excavation is not possible.
Provisional date: Late 18th to mid 19th century.
Recording: Measured ground plan drawing with stones sketched. (PJF)
Photographic record: Coloured print: Film 4. Print 109 in background. Black and White: Film 2. Print 33-35.
Notes: Since this monument was constructed and used the immediate locality has become extremely water logged and coarse grass plants have invaded the area including the internal spaces of the buildings. Although this makes both survey and excavation quite difficult the rewards of investigating a water logged site may be considered high if wooden and other perishable artefacts or worthwhile environmental samples can be recovered.

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HI 19 Island Map NGR NG 4207 9683
Interpretation: Kerbed cairn. Tentative.
Location:
This monument is located on a high dominant position at the southern end of a rocky ridge that rises to form the western side of a valley that develops to the south of the central west coast plateau.
Description: So much of the structural stonework has become displaced that a clear definition of this monument is not possible without the aid of excavation. The overall impression is of a circular structure of 3.50m. diameter (a meter less than the OS survey of 1969), but this may be an illusion created from final positions of the mass of displaced stonework. A few stones only at the southern edge appear well bedded and set as a possible kerb, however the fact that so much stonework is displaced suggests a monument whose superstructure was composed of free standing drystone walling and not a solid, mounded earth and stone structure, although there is a mound of material standing to approximately 0.80m. high. .
Provisional date: Bronze Age if correctly identified as a cairn (tentative suggestion by OS), 18th/19th century if found to be a collapsed shelter (pers. com suggestion by Mary Macleod).
Recording: Stone by stone measured drawing. (VP+LZ)
Photographic record: Coloured print: Film 4. Print 107/108. Black and White: Film 2. Print 39-41.
Notes: Although not directly related it is coincidental that an early modern rectangular field enclosure occupies the valley to the east of HI 19 using the edge of the ridge as its west boundary, however other shieling/shelters are also in the locality.

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HI 20 Island Map NGR NG 4221 9677
Interpretation: Shelter. Positive.
Location:
At the top of a south facing slope that leads up to the edge of the stepped broken country that forms the southern tip of the eastern uplands. The shelter is a few meters to the north of a curvilinear field boundary that encloses much of the southern slope.
Description: This shelter adapts a close formation of naturally fallen boulders by adding four further large stone blocks to form a crude rectangular shelter with an internal space of 4.75x2.60m. The added walling is all on the western side while the southerly side is open.
Provisional date: Early modern.
Recording: Stone by stone measured ground plan drawn. (PJF)
Photographic record: Black and White: Film 2. Print 42.

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HI 21 Island Map NGR NG 4219 9686
Interpretation: Platform. Positive.
Location:
Situated in the middle region at about the 80m. contour of the south western stepped slopes up to the eastern highlands of the island this site forms a level platform at the base of a crag that tops the 90m. contour. Looking down and to the west the possible kerbed cairn HI 19 can be seen on the ridge forming the opposite side of the western valley.
Description: The platform is an flat oval space (5x3.50m. diameter) with its stone edged back set into the slope at the base of the crag to the east. The southern side is marked by a large naturally fallen boulder, but the northern side has what appears to be a length (8m.) of low curved earth and stone embankment. The open west facing front is revetted with stone a further 1.50m. to the west from the enclosed oval area.
Provisional date: Not dateable.
Recording: Measured ground plan drawn with stonework sketched. (PJF)
Photographic record: Black and White: Film 2. Print 43.

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HI 22 Island Map NGR NG 4217 9694
Interpretation: Shieling with separate store. Positive.
Location:
On the east slope to the highlands to the north of shelter HI 21 and a little lower on the slope on a relatively flat area. Marked on the OS map with a small dot and noted with the blanket description of 'old shielings'. On the 1889 map it is marked with the title 'ruin'.
Description: The shieling: Slightly horse-shoe shaped in ground plan with a the open end as a narrow (0.50m.) splayed out (1.50m.) entrance to the south. The walls are of stacked drystone rubble construction of between 0.50m. and 1.50m. thickness, which have been built with an inward corbelled learn in the upper level. The internal space is 2.5m. by 2m. and is slightly pear shaped. The walls still stand to a height of just over 1m. The store: 1.50m. to the north of the shieling is a small circular (1m. internal diameter) setting of closely spaced upright stones forming a small store through which the wind could pass keeping any contents cool in the same manner as the larger cleits found on St Kilda. A meter to the east behind the store is a small pile of collected stones.
Provisional date: Early modern.
Recording: Measured ground plan of Shieling drawn with stone by stone drawing of store. (VP+JZ)
Photographic record: Coloured print: Film 4. Print 106. Black and White: Film 2. Print 44-47.

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HI 23 Island Map NGR NG 4205 9735
Interpretation: Long House. Positive.
Location:
At the base of a crag face midway up the steep stepped slope to the north eastern high plateau and overlooking the farmstead settlement around the blackhouse HI 15.
Description: A long oval shaped house, orientated north to south, constructed against the rock face of one of the crag steps that form the hillside. The rock face serves as the east wall to the house. The west wall curves sharply around from the east rock face to curve down to the south where it turns sharply back to the east rock face. This short southern wall has a doorway 0.50m., wide splaying out to 1.20m. at the outside. The wall is constructed of earth or turf, averaging 0.75m. wide, stone faced internally, but apparently not externally, and is relatively low at around 0.50m. high. The location is removed from any other construction of note and is therefore less likely to have been subject to stone robbing, which indicates that the wall height and structure have remained unaltered since its initial construction. The internal dimensions are 8m. long from north to south and 2.25m. wide, narrowing slightly at the northern end and broadening slightly at the southern. A division of loose rock across the centre could be a more recent modification or natural rock fall. There are numerous loose stones from such falls. The interior is sloped from north down to the south. There are no indications of holes cut into the rock face to take roof timbers so presumably any roof would have been a lean-to construction.
Provisional date: Early Medieval.
Recording: Stone by stone measured ground plan drawn. (VP+JZ)
Photographic record: Coloured print: Film 4. Print 105. Black and White: Film 3. Print 48-50.
Notes: The long curved form of this building is reminiscent of Norse houses. Considering the traditional view of the early Viking depredations in the region the location of the house high on the rocky slope with excellent views across the sea approaches may be considered a suitable situation for a house of that period. Possibly also to be considered in this vein is the visual aspect of the building. With its low turf outer wall face combined with a turf covered roof set against the rock face it would have been suitably camouflaged.

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HI 24 Island Map NGR NG 4203 9740
Interpretation: Shelter. Positive.
Location:
Set against a crag rock face on a relatively flat area on one of the rocky steps that form the hillside up to the eastern highlands at its north-eastern corner overlooking, to the west, the north facing slope up from the east coastal shelf to the east coast central plateau.
Description: A semi-circular wind break wall of piled stone, now collapsed, built against the crag rock face which forms the eastern and northern sides to the shelter. The walling curves away from the rock face to the east. then turning to the north, but leaving an entrance gap at the north-east corner.
Provisional date: Early modern.
Recording: Measured ground plan drawn with individual stones plotted. (PJF)
Photographic record: Black and White: Film 3. Print 54.

HI 25 Island Map NGR NG 4195 9752
Interpretation: Shelter (covered by rock-fall). Tentative. Location: High on the hillside inside a deep sheltered cleft caused by part of the crag rock face falling outwards. The hillside forms the eastern stepped and rocky face to the high north plateau overlooking the north-west coastal shelf. The site overlooks the southern part of that shelf.
Description: The site or sites have been covered and almost obliterated by later rock falls, but presumably it is a shelter or shelters, however the nature and location of the long house HI 23 may suggest that a similar structure could have been located here.
Provisional date: Early modern.
Recording: Not possible due to fallen rock masking the basic outline of the monument.
Photographic record: Nil.

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HI 26 Island Map NGR NG 4209 9736
Interpretation: Boat shaped stone setting. Tentative.
Location:
At the western edge of a large plateau like area forming a northern step down from the east highlands. The site is immediately above the long house HI 23
Description: An elongated, 7m. long and 2.25m wide, setting of large stones (up to 1m.), many set on edge, in a bare boat shape. There are many spaces, although the setting is along the edge of the escarpment and many stones can be observed below which could have derived from this setting, leaving positive identification undecided. At the southern end the stones do form a blunted end which is possible the settings best claim to being boat shaped. The location, along the scarp edge, would be a suitable place to find relic walling and this has been suggested as being the more likely definition (Mary Macleod pers. com.).
Provisional date: Norse if identification is proven.
Recording: Stone by stone measured ground plan drawn. (PJF)
Photographic record: Coloured print: Film 4. Print 104. Black and White: Film 3. Print 51.

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HI 27 Island Map NGR NG 4196 9765
Interpretation: Navigation cairn. Positive.
Location:
Grid ref. requires more positive fix since site not personally visited. On the west edge of the northern high plateau.
Description: A cairn of piled stones, estimated from a photograph as being approximately a meter high, has been raised on the surface of a flat topped glacial perched boulder, already a prominently situated on the skyline. Provisional date: Modern.
Recording: Nil.
Photographic record: Nil.

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HI 28 Island Map NGR NG 4202 9752
Interpretation: Cairn. Positive.
Location:
At the southern side of the north high plateau in an elevated situation that gives good visibility to the lower coastal shelf.
Description: A small 0.70m. diameter collection of stone blocks up to 0.40m. in size partially on large exposed embedded boulder where they have become denuded of soil. Provisional date: Prehistoric.
Recording: Nil.
Photographic record: Black and White: Film 3. Print 53.

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HI 29 Island Map NGR NG 4210 9743
Interpretation: Heel cairn. Positive.
Location:
In a flat hollow area in the centre of the large benched area that forms a northern step up to the highlands.
Description: A horseshoe shaped setting of embedded stones enclosing a very slightly elevated flat central earthen mound. Orientated NNE to SSW with the open end to the SSW 2m. long and 1.40m. wide. The closed northern end is curved but the sides are relatively straight.
Provisional date: Bronze Age.
Recording: Stone by stone measured ground plan drawn. (PJF)
Photographic record: Coloured print: Film 4. Print 103. Black and White: Film 3. Print 52.

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HI 30 Island Map NGR NG 4213 9705
Interpretation: Shelter. Positive.
Location:
On a gently sloped bench halfway up and midway along the west stepped hillside up to the eastern highlands. The bench is enclosed by a drystone field wall with the shelter towards its southern end.
Description: A large flat faced naturally fallen boulder is used to form the south-eastern side of the shelter which is butted to the face. Two slightly curved lengths of single stone walling, the eastern being 1m. long and the western 1.80m., form the sides which turn inwards to leave s 0.20m. gap that is presumably the entrance - the stonework appears a little scattered at the entrance on the west side which may mean that the entrance was originally wider.
Provisional date: Early modern.
Recording: Stone by stone measured ground plan drawn. (PJF)
Photographic record: Nil.

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HI 31 Island Map NGR NG 4187 9767
Interpretation: Cemetery mound. Tentative.
Location:
There are no visible indications as to the location of the graveyard, no enclosure of grave markers, but a large mound in the general area traditionally accepted for its location is considered to be the most likely candidate for such a monument. The mound is to the east of and possibly around and underlying the fisherman's bothy HI 4 towards the northern end of the west coastal shelf.
Description: The superimposition of the bothy on the mound's western flank masks the true size and shape, but an estimate based on the visible remains would indicate an oval mound of 10x15m. standing to a maximum height of 1.30m. Bothy HI 4 has been cut into the western side and access to its east facing doorway combined with sheep traversing the front of the building have downgradaded a path across the western upper flank of the mound and a hollow has been excavated from the lower part of the northern side exposing stones. On the summit a 3m. diameter (external) low embankment with a 0.50m. gap to the south may be the remains of a small turf hut, however the severe mutilation of this monument leaves doubt concerning any such structure and it is possible that it merely represents further degradation. This feature cannot be confused with any hermit's shelter or chapel. There are however stones visible around the lower edges of the mound and this may be indicative of a general stone mantle that is often encountered on early mounded cemeteries. Examples can be found on Berneray, Pabbay, Mingulay and in the Borve Valley cemetery, Barra (Foster forthcoming).
Provisional date: Early Christian to early modern.
Recording: Measured ground plan drawn. (PJF)
Photographic record: Coloured prints: Film 2. Print 38/39, 41. Black and White: Film 1. Print 9.
Notes: For details of location and map problems see notes to HI 4 above.

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