Yesterday, Professor Ian Ralston, Abercromby Professor of Archaeology , University of Edinburgh and Martin Carruthers of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute together with Clive the landowner, visited the site of the recently discovered subterranean structure in West Mainland, Orkney. The structure is slowly being emptied of 19th Century rubbish which includes glass bottles, a stone hot water bottle, an assortment of stone bottles, a teapot and a sheet of metal used for target practice (!) amongst other things.
There is even a glass bottle containing original 19th century amber coloured liquid – top still in place! In fact it is amazing that so many of these remnants of a ministers past life are still intact. Some bottles have broken, but not all.
In response to questions on social media concerning the next steps for this important find Martin writes, “We’ll perhaps build up this one over a little time. Geophysical survey would be a great start, and hopefully allow us to see if there are above ground traces of contemporary features. There are also some very interesting aspects to it’s location. It lies just a couple of hundred metres away from a substantial broch settlement (itself excavated by one of the ministers whose Victorian rubbish fills the new souterrain).
Also very interesting, is the fact that the little stream or burn that lies next to the souterrain rises from a natural spring nearby and then disappears back underground also quite close to the structure! If this hydrology was the same two thousand, or more, years ago, then I think this natural phenomenon would not have been lost on Iron Age Orcadians and their underground sensibilities!
We’ll look forward to finding out more before too long!”