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Winter Storms Reveal Archaeological Sites

Published: 16 January 2013

Structure revealed by storms Structure revealed by stormsZoomSouth-westerly storms which affected Shetland over the festive period have revealed an exciting new archaeological site in Dunrossness, which was assessed by Trust archaeology staff. The first report came in on 16 December, where a cliff fall at Channerwick revealed cellular structures which looked like part of an Iron Age building as well as at least two skeletons.

Since, by law, the discovery of human remains always has to involve the police, the report led to an exploration of the cliff by assistant archaeologist Chris Dyer, in conjunction with the police. They quickly established that they were dealing with an ancient burial rather than the results of foul play. Chris said: "The skeleton, which was initially reported to us by local resident Ewan Thomson, looked as if it were contemporary with the Iron Age remains."

Skeletal remains uncovered by storms Skeletal remains uncovered by stormsZoomThe Archaeology Section immediately contacted Historic Scotland to discuss the treatment of the remains. Freelance archaeologist Samantha Dennis and archaeologist, Val Turner visited Channerwick a few days later, and identified evidence of another one. or possibly two, burials. However, before plans to investigate further could be implemented, another storm caused a further cliff fall. "The original burial now lies under several tons of fallen bank and the Iron Age structures have also disappeared from view" said Chris Dyer, who has been monitoring the site. Fortunately, Chris had managed to take several photographs to record the site.

The skeleton is now protected by the second cliff fall and no further work is planned in the meantime. However, a small piece of bone will be sent for radiocarbon dating and it will be possible to determine whether or not the remains are about 2,000 years old, as we suspect.