Saddle quern found in Moss.
Courtesy of Catriona McLeod
Saddle querns are the most ancient and widely used type of quern-stone. This one was found in Moss in the mid-1980s and may date back to Neolithic times. It was used with a rubbing stone held in the hand, a process that crushed the grain rather than ground it.
Considered women’s work, preparing grain using a saddle quern would have taken many hours and placed great strain on the body, particularly the toes, knees, hips and lower back. They continued in use into the medieval period and were superseded by rotary querns.
Turnbull, in a report on Tiree written in 1768, wrote that meal was made ‘with querns or hand mills which appears to be an expensive and troublesome method. Two women at once, or sometimes three, are commonly employed. By this means there is so much of their time taken up that it greatly retards them from other industry.’