Trowels out for last season at Old Scatness
The trowels have been unsheathed for Britain's biggest archaeological excavation as work restarts at the Scatness broch, in Shetland, today (Wednesday).
Around 60 experts and students of pre-history have descended on the Iron Age village for what will be the last of nine seasons of work, during which they have rewritten the history books about how life was lived 2000 years ago.
Work began on the Pictish broch, at the southern tip of the islands, in 1995, after Shetland Amenity Trust purchased the land and raised the cash to proceed with the first phase of activity.
By the end of this year the trust hope to have created a "living iron age village" which will demonstrate what life in Shetland was like at the time Christ walked the earth.
Since then the team from Bradford University's archaeological department, which have been in charge of the digging programme, have uncovered a spectacular maze of stone buildings which were continuously inhabited for more than one thousand years.
Over the past few years they have discovered a wealthy settlement where people produced top of the range bronzeware, from weapons to jewellery, and lived the high life eating beef and supping locally produced ale.
Last year evidence came to light that Scatness contained a bronzeware factory importing tin from Cornwall, mixing it with locally mined copper and creating bronze implements which were exported throughout Britain and even further afield.
The find of the year was a Pictish carving of a bear, discovered almost by accident in one of the walls of a roundhouse, provoking endless debate about whether bears ever roamed the islands, or whether the artist was depicting a brown or even a polar bear witnessed during their travels south or north of the isles.
The site has become a laboratory for scientific research into new dating techniques, and allowed specialists to explore their fields in a way rarely afforded by similar digs, which are usually limited by time and resources.
This year however the focus will be on preparing the site for its long term future as a visitor centre.
County archaeologist Val Turner said: "Work on the village will be completed at the end of this season, and we will be consolidating it in the autumn. We will stabilize everything and instead of covering it up we will leave it open and turn it into a year round tourist attraction."
Ms Turner said there was still much to look forward to though, with five of the iron age houses needing to be excavated to floor level over the next six weeks. "That's going to be fun because the floor is where people dropped things, so that's where you find all the goodies," she said.
However the archaeology will not stop entirely after this year. The amenity trust hope to maintain smaller scale digging operations on different parts of the site into the future, and the hope is that Shetland folk will play a bigger part in creating the Iron Age atmosphere to visitors who come to Scatness in the years ahead.
"Some Shetland-based people are starting a textile project where they take a fleece, hand spin and hand weave it and turn it into a piece of cloth…and that's the kind of direction we want to move in," Ms Turner said.
"It will become a centre for interpreting the period in a "hands on" way, where people can feel what it's like to live in the Iron Age and experience it with all five of their senses."
Article taken from 'The Shetland Times'
Posted by notjamesbond
4th July 2003ce
Edited 15th January 2004ce