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8 September 2011
4,600-year-old 'pub' discovered in Shetland?

Experts believe that 4600 years ago natives may have been enjoying a pie and pint at Jarlshof in Shetland (Scotland). They say the layout of the stone settlement near Sumburgh Head suggests it may be the oldest pub ever found in Britain. And a dozen or so quernstones - for grinding barley - indicate it may have served as both a drinking den and a bakery.
     Jarlshof, described as 'one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles' was first revealed after a storm in 1890. It contains remains dating from 2500 BCE up to the 17th century.
     Experts including Shetland regional archaeologist Val Turner are in no doubt that - pub or not - there was beer being brewed at Jarlshof in the Iron Age. Dr Noel Fojut, author of Prehistoric And Viking Shetland, said: "We know communal feasting, and probably drinking, was a feature of Iron Age life. Providing lavish hospitality seems to have been an important means of establishing social status. It's difficult, however, to distinguish an inn or pub - where people paid - from a communal dining/drinking house. It's an attractive idea that there may have a welcoming 'howff' at Shetland's southern landfall and perfectly possible. But it's much more likely any hospitality would have been offered by a local family, rather than by a commercial landlord as we'd imagine one today."
     The building has a house next door which has a large souterrain - which was the equivalent of a Iron Age refrigerator used for storing smoked or salted meats. And during the early Iron Age, the site at Jarlshof was surrounded by crops of barley and emmer, a kind of wheat.

Edited from Daily Record (5 September 2011), New Kerala (7 September 2011)

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