MSc students from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute ventured out to The Cairns last week to investigate several features around the site.
Martin Carruthers, Site Director and Programme Leader for MSc Archaeological Practice, takes up the story…
We began by excavating test pits at The Cairns. In glorious sunshine, our intrepid MSc students began to investigate the Neolithic midden, Iron Age soils close to the ditch surrounding the broch and the natural boulder clay in the northern part of the field; all of which help us to define the extent of the archaeological remains here.
A previously unknown, probably prehistoric site, located 180 metres to the south-east of The Cairns was brought to light in a shallow test pit containing ashy midden and a stone setting, possibly a remnant wall.
Not visually spectacular at this stage but highly significant in our ever-expanding awareness of the landscape around The Cairns. Finds were few but a fragment of a saddle quern came out of the ashy soil and hints that the site is prehistoric.
This “new” site aligns to one end of a buried linear feature previously investigated, which turned out to be a ditch or hollow-way, maybe a track leading from the entrance of the broch village down-slope to this point in the landscape.
The image below is looking from the test pit back up-slope in the direction of The Cairns mound. The “hollow-way” takes a line from here straight through the modern telegraph pole, to the mound of The Cairns beyond it.