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24 June 2006
Massive archaeology projects for Caithness

Caithness (Scotland) will undergo more excavations and underwater explorations than any other region in Britain over the next few months, with projects looking at Neolithic and Bronze Age cairns, Iron Age brochs and crannogs. One team will reverse the trend and rebuild some stone structures in 3000 BCE style.
     The remote, sparsely populated region has undergone less development than the Central Belt of Scotland, and it possesses a wealth of well-preserved archaeological remains with many treasures yet to be discovered. An initial excavation of the Iron Age broch at Keiss will be led by John Barber of AOC Archaeology Group. A broch is a round stone tower, unique to Iron Age Scotland. John described the Keiss broch as a magnificent site with a village surrounding it. John will also be leading the innovative Early Architecture Research Programme (EARP) in its reconstructions of brochs and Neolithic chambered cairns. "Over the past two years the project has built and demolished a series of early structures," explained John, "in controlled experiments designed to help us understand the architecture and engineering of these complex monuments." The EARP project will provide lessons in interpretation and conservation of drystone archaeological monuments for archaeologists across Britain.
     At Battle Moss, a team from Glasgow University will be looking an original Bronze Age cairn and associated stone rows. Earlier investigations in 2003 and 2005 focussed on a set of multiple stone rows and a multiphase cairn that they appear to align on. It was discovered that the cairn underwent at least three phases of use during the early and middle Bronze Ages (c2500-1700 BCE).
     Off land, two new exciting underwater archaeology projects will begin. Pioneering surveys of now submerged crannogs (artificial island settlements) in Caithness will be carried out by AOC Archaeology Group and archaeologists from the University of Nottingham. "We intend to take samples from these crannogs for radiocarbon dating," said team leader Graeme Cavers. "The survey of the crannogs in the Loch of Yarrows, Loch Clader, Loch Watten and Loch Scarmclate will add a further dimension to our understanding of prehistoric settlement in Caithness."

Source: Caroline Lewis for 24 Hour Museum (23 June 2006)

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