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17 January 2004
Tourists declared "no threat" to Maeshowe

Increasing visitor numbers is not having a detrimental effect on one of Orkney's (Scotland) top visitor attractions, according to initial findings. State-of-the-art technology was brought in by Historic Scotland scientists concerned for the future of Maeshowe and Skara Brae.
     The Orcadian revealed last year that detailed analysis was being carried out to discover whether the walls were moving and being eroded at both sites. Interim results for Maeshowe has suggested that visitor numbers are not a problem, Steve Watt, district architect with Historic Scotland explained. "The interesting thing for Maeshowe is that the environmental concerns in the tomb are more or less the same as in other tombs, with regard to the humidity and dampness." He continued: "Visitor numbers would not seem to be causing a problem initially, which is a little surprising, but this is only the first half of the survey. It is such a massive tomb its fabric can maybe take more of the effect of visitors and temperature fluctuations."
     Small recording devices are being used to record information on temperature and relative humidity and take a reading once every minute. Photogrammetry - a process of measurement by photography - is being used to tell whether the stones are moving or decreasing and if cracks are appearing. Investigations at the Stone Age village of Skara Brae have still to be analysed, Mr Watt said. "We will keep on monitoring and are going to complete in the first half of 2004, that will allow us to look at all the data." The village overlooks the Atlantic Ocean at the Bay of Skaill on Orkney's West Mainland and, as such, is exposed to the elements, including salt water.

Sources: The Orcadian, Orkneyjar (14 January 2004)

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