Dispersed Bronze Age house ruins found by archaeologists during walk on Orkney island

By Culture24 Reporter | 14 December 2015

Archaeologists say one of the largest Bronze Age hut circles discovered in the Scottish Isles is now at the mercy of the coastal elements

A photo of a large wide coast off Orkney in Scotland
A large Bronze Age complex discovered on Orkney could provide a snapshot of life 4,000 years ago© Colin Richards / University of Manchester
An inclement walk during an Orkney Islands field trip has led a surprised archaeology team to the remains of 14 gatherings of Bronze Age house ruins, spread across a kilometre on a sea shore.

A mass of stone tools covered each of the ancient homes, buried beneath sand dunes at Tress Ness, on the island of Sanday.

“It was the scale and density of occupation that really surprised us,” says Professor Colin Richards, of The University of Manchester, describing the remains as a “major discovery”.

“The houses and a Bronze Age land-surface have clearly been sealed beneath the dune system for some 4,000 years.

“The discovery of the complex of Bronze Age houses and working areas was entirely unexpected. In fact, we walked past a number of piles of stone without realising that they were actually the remains of Bronze Age buildings, as Orkney is distinctive in having stone-built remains for the majority of the prehistoric periods.

“The most extraordinary observation is that the settlement appears to run with roughly evenly spaced houses and working areas. Further investigations may well uncover stone field walls and boundaries.

“The possibility now exists to gain a snapshot of everyday life in the second millennium BC. Their uncovering is a result of gradual coastal erosion, particularly the dune system, which means that now exposed they are at the mercy of the elements."

Experts from the University of the Highlands and the University of Central Lancashire also helped define the dispersed layout.

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Three places to discover the Bronze Age in

Flag Fen Archaeology Park, Peterborough
Flag Fen is the site of a 3,500 year old ritual causeway and ceremonial platform. Made from wood it contains 60,000 upright timbers and has yielded one of the best collections of Bronze Age Celtic swords, jewellery and tools in the country.

Great Orme Bronze Age Copper Mines, Llandudno
Uncovered in 1987 during a scheme to landscape an area of the Great Orme, the copper mines discovered below the ground represent one of the most astounding archaeological discoveries of recent times. Dating back 4,000 years to the Bronze Age, they change our views about the ancient people of Britain and their civilized and structured society 2,000 years before the Roman invasion.

Geevor Tin Mine Museum and Heritage Centre, Penzance
As far back as the Bronze Age, around 4, 000 years ago, people began to work the land in search of tin, copper and other metals. Geevor, situated amid the dramatic scenery of Cornwall's Atlantic coast, is the largest mining history site in the UK.
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