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17 July 2004
Volunteers wanted for Cairn project

People are being invited to be among the first in 6,000 years to try their hand at building sections of what were the north Highland version of the Pyramids. Caithness (Scotland) contains the best-preserved examples of stone-chambered cairns anywhere in mainland Britain. But knowledge about the 67 sites tends not to extend further than academics.
     The cairn-building project, launched by Caithness Archaeological Trust (Cat), is designed to lift the profile of the ancient tombs and encourage more people to come and see them. The great mounds of stone, of which the Grey Cairns of Camster is best known, were used for burials by the area's first settlers. An initial 13 volunteers have so far joined the modern-day construction team in the village of Spittal, just off the northernmost stretch of the A9 between Latheron and Thurso.
     Cat's archaeological development officer Andy Heald said: "We're trying to relive a community project carried out by our Caithness ancestors more than 6,000 years ago." Local quarry owner A & D Sutherland is supplying the stone being used.
     Mr Heald said: "We're building up experience and expertise for the longer-term aim of the project which is to construct a full-size cairn somewhere in Caithness. We hope to involve as much of the community as possible and, ideally, we will attract people of various ages and strengths to help us at every stage of the project from collecting the stone to building the cairn."
     He believes the initiative can serve as a visitor attraction and help in Cat's drive to increase the popular appeal of the county's rich archaeology. The scheme at Spittal is scheduled to last until July 30. Special children's days are being held on July 17 and 24, while an evening lecture, on the current scheme, is at Spittal Village Hall on July 19. Anyone interested in taking part in the cairn-building should can turn up at 9.30 any weekday morning at the entrance of A & D Sutherland Ltd's quarry. All under-18-year-olds have to be accompanied by an adult.

Source: This is North Scotland (13 July 2004)

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