Excavation of storm-ravaged Iron Age houses
University of St Andrews researchers are excavating the remains of Iron Age houses uncovered by a ferocious storm.
Tom Dawson of SCAPE (Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion) is leading a community project on North Uist where violent weather exposed the ruined houses at Baile Sear in January 2005. Tragically, a family of five died on Benbecula in the same storm.
Part-funded by Historic Scotland, SCAPE is investigating the suspected Iron Age roundhouses before they vanish in another powerful storm.
Mr Dawson, a research fellow at the University said, “People had seen bits and pieces of the remains before but, as the cobbles and sand washed away, the structures are just sitting there on the beach. There are thought to be two roundhouses. We believe they are Iron Age, making them 2,000 years old.”
SCAPE has also started investigating the remains of salt pans on sand dunes at Brora in Sutherland. The large metal trays were filled with sea water and heated below by fires fuelled by coal from a nearby pit to produce salt. Brora is the location of the most northerly deep mine in the British Isles and coal was dug from it from 1598 until 1974. Fifteen miners died in a coal mine roof fall in the 18th Century.
Set up in 2001, SCAPE has helped Historic Scotland survey the Scottish coastline for archaeological sites.
Mr Dawson said climate change posed a serious threat to many of the relics recorded so far.
He said, “Erosion has always happened, but it is said that climate change and global warming will leave Scotland one of the places worst affected by storms.”
The charity has been targeting its resources at sites where the local communities have shown a willingness to excavate or try and protect them.
Further information – www.scapetrust.org
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