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30 October 2005
2,000-year-old burial site found on Shetland

Archaeologists working on Shetland's most northerly isle have discovered a burial site more than 2,000 years old. The site at Sand Wick on Unst, thought to date back to the Iron Age, had already been badly eroded by the sea when a team of experts began their work in August. However, archaeologists from Glasgow University, the Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problems of Erosion Trust (SCAPE) and local volunteers managed to rescue artefacts and a skeleton.
     The excavation, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland, was initially aimed at training volunteers how to excavate eroding coastlines. But what they unearthed is being described as a poignant find by experts. The skeleton was found lying on its back with a polished stone disc tucked inside its mouth. Near the arm was a tiny ornament formed of rings of copper alloy and bone which the team believes was some kind of pendant.
     Dr Olivia Lelong, excavation director and project director of Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division, said: "The skeleton was a totally unexpected find. It was a beautifully composed burial, obviously put together with a great deal of thought and care". The team also found hundreds of shreds of pottery, limpet shells and animal bones leftover from ancient meals.
     The doctor added: "It is a fascinating building to dig. It's rare to find walls standing so high, and so much well-preserved evidence for what went on inside the cells. It is already telling us a lot about how people lived in Iron Aged Shetland."

Sources: Press Association, The Scotsman (24 October 2005)

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