|10 February 2008
Bronze Age burnt mound to be saved from the sea
Archaeologists plan to save a fine example of a Bronze Age burnt mound from disappearing into the sea in a unique £70,000 removal operation on Shetland (Scotland) this coming summer. The unprecedented project will see the prehistoric version of a water heater, a third of which has already been eroded by the sea, dismantled and rebuilt in fully functional order. Barbara Anderson, of Bressay Heritage Centre, said it was highly unusual to be allowed to tamper with an ancient monument in this way. "In this case we are being allowed to remove it. Normally you would not be able to touch things like this," she said.
Shetland has hundreds of burnt mounds like the one at Cruister, which attract great interest because their associated structures are the most complex so far discovered in the UK and Ireland. The Bressay site has a fireplace and a main stone water tank connected by a sloping chute and surrounded by a series of stone-built cells. Around these lie a large mound of fire-cracked stones, believed to have been built up when the site was still in use. The stones were heated in the fire and then plunged into the tank to heat the water. Archaeologists believe the stones were rolled from the fireplace into the tankdown the chute, which is a unique feature of this site. "It is a very good example of a burnt mound in Shetland with one of the best, if not the best, example of the interior section and how it operated," Mrs Anderson said.
Archaeological theories abound as to what these constructions where used for. The most popular is for cooking food, while others envision a 4,000 year old sauna. "Nobody, including the top archaeologists, knows exactly what the purpose of a burnt mound was. They know what happened in it, but they donít know why, so it is still a mystery at the moment," Mrs Anderson said.
The project will be co-ordinated by the Bressay History Group with input from the Adopt-a-Monument scheme run by the Council for Scottish Archaeology (CSA), and the SCAPE (Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion) Trust. Helen Bradley, from the CSA, who has been working with the history group from the start, said: "This project takes a novel approach to the problems facing archaeological sites as a result of climate change and will create tremendous benefits for Bressay and its community. The finished product will be an exciting interactive tourist attraction. The finished reconstruction will be fully functioning and will be used as a centre for experimental work, education and living history events."
Source: The Shetland News (26 January 2008)
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