Iron Age The Cairns

Link: Recreating Iron Age repairs – rivets and The Cairns bowl

A splendid blog post from experimental archaeologist and woodworker Viv Walker on her investigation into how The Cairns bowl was repaired in antiquity.
The brass rivets in the Cairns Bowl replica. (Viv Walker)
The brass rivets in the Cairns Bowl replica. (Viv Walker)

Dating to around AD120 – 196, the bowl was found in the underground chamber beneath The Cairns broch in July 2018.

The waterlogged conditions meant the wood was in remarkably good condition, but the bowl had split into two large pieces. Fashioned from alder, it has a diameter of c.30 centimetres, with an elegant profile, an everted rim (splayed outwards), a globular body and round-bottomed base.

The Cairns bowl after conservation.
The Cairns bowl after conservation showing the location of the repaired section.

At some point in its history the bowl broke, but was very carefully repaired with bronze rivets, suggesting it was a valued object in the Iron Age and, by extension, maybe something of a rarity.

It may have been part of the activities carried out within the underground chamber and maybe akin to a relic – an artefact with a well-known and important history that was perhaps curated as an heirloom of the broch household.

Presumably, towards the end of the chamber’s “life” the broch dwellers placed the bowl in the underground structure at its deepest, innermost end.