Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Shetland Times reports that excavations are complete at Sandwick on Unst (Britain's northernmost island, off the coast of Scotland). The site dates to the Iron Age, and was in danger of falling into the sea. It was excavated by a group of amateur archaeologists, trained by professionals, as part of the government-run Adopt-A-Monument initiative.

The site consists of several small cells, with upstanding stone walls and paved floors. Thick layers of midden, full of limpet and whelk shells, animal bone and pot sherds, built up in and around the cells. In the middle of one was a stone and clay hearth, with large pot sherds set into the clay. Another hearth was later built on top, also of stone and clay, against a large upright slab. Behind it was a mound of ash and pot sherds that had been swept out of the hearth.

The team have found more than a thousand sherds of pottery, as well as a soapstone tuyère (for holding a bellows during metalworking), part of a shale bracelet, stone tools and two painted pebbles.

. . .

In 2005, a burial was found cut through the windblown sand that had covered the building after it was abandoned. The skeleton had been buried with a polished stone disc and a tiny, intricate object made of copper alloy and bone rings.

The BBC website reports that the Unst project is one of a number of sites that have been taken under the protection of local community groups, in the Adopt-A-Monument initiative which hopes to promote the restoration and survival of a number of Scottish sites. A number of examples are cited, as well as Unst, including a stone circle trail:

The archaeological section of Perthshire Society for Natural Science are to expand a stone circle trail which they created as an Adopt-a-Monument project in the 1990s. The current trail consists of the circle of Bandirran, Colen and Loanhead and will soon feature a further two sites still to be announced.