Archaeology The Cairns

Ready to start at The Cairns

The covers are now coming off The Cairns ready for the start of the season of excavations.

Site Director, Martin Carruthers writes….”A small but intrepid band of us have been out on site this week getting set-up, and removing covers, for the start of the season on Monday. This video shows the culmination of this process today. We removed a big spoil-heap and machine excavated underneath it to expose the area between the main trench (the one with the broch) and Trench M, the trench with the ditch and the metalworking area (still covered in plastic and tyres in this video). This will considerably increase our view into the village to the north of the broch. Welcome to MEGATRENCH!”

The questions that Martin hopes to address include:

  • How were brochs used?   Did this change over time?
  • Are they residences of an elite, or communal expressions of the prowess of the entire community?
  • Were the extramural villages around the brochs strictly contemporary?
  • If brochs and their villages sprout up at more or less the same time what causes this? And where was everyone living before brochs and villages were built?
  • Is the broch setting influenced by the presence of the much earlier Neolithic mound

The site is very complex, but a timeline is emerging.

  • Mid to late 4th Millennium BC- Neolithic settlement
  • Early to mid 3rd Millennium BC- Bronze Age
  • Broch & contemporary settlement (probably includes the great outer ditch)
  • Post-broch Midle Iron Age settlement: Square building with metalworking and the souterrain
  • Post broch LIA settlement 1
  • Post broch LIA settlement 2: ‘the feasting-house’
  • Viking/Norse activity corn drying and deposition
  • Later Medieval /post Medieval farming
  • ‘Improvements’ in the 1860’s
  • 1901: Rev Alexander Goodfellow antiquarian excavation
  • 2000s-to present: Our excavations and landscape investigation