Caithness to build a £1m Iron Age broch

24th October 2016 from Gabriella Bennett writes for The Times Online

An Iron Age roundhouse is to be built in Caithness using ancient methods to bring the area’s prehistoric legacy to life (.

The stone structure, known as a broch, is to be modelled on a similar building in Shetland constructed about 2,000 years ago.

One of many built in Scotland, the precise function of a broch is unknown but experts believe they were used as residences for clan chiefs as a symbol of their status and power.

Now only remnants remain at various sites around the country. Between 200 and 300 are thought to exist in Caithness, the highest number found in any Scottish region.

To recreate the 13m-high house, £1 million will be raised by the Caithness Broch Project, a charity set up to preserve the sites.

It will house replica furniture, such as stone beds lined with moss, a tourist centre and a neighbouring workshop where visitors will learn how the broch was created.

Local tradespeople skilled in Caithness drystone dyking methods are to be employed in the broch’s construction, with building work estimated to take three years.

“Bone combs, painted pebbles, polished discs which might have been used as mirrors and a skull fragment with three holes drilled through have been found in Caithness brochs,” Kenneth McElroy, chairman of the Caithness Broch Project, said.

“All these things point towards the idea brochs were used for domestic purposes. But to make the Caithness broch memorable to tourists we need to make it large. There are [replica] roundhouses popping up all over England and Scotland, so to give people a reason to visit Caithness we want to make this one impressive and iconic.

“Caithness had more brochs than anywhere else in Scotland. We don’t know why, and this is something we would like to find out. Caithness has not been subject to a lot of archaeological investigation compared to places such as Orkney. We are hoping to encourage more understanding and knowledge, and eventually interest as well.”

Next year, to coincide with the Scottish government’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, members have proposed a year of fundraising events. It will include an excavation of Thing’s Va, an Iron Age settlement reused by Vikings as a meeting place, and talks by local historians.

A number of sites for the broch are being explored.

Mr McElroy said: “Local reaction has been brilliant. Tourism is so important to Scotland, and Caithness is no different.”

A spokesman from VisitScotland said: “Scotland’s history is one of the top reasons for visiting the country and 2017 offers huge opportunities for the tourism industry and collaboration across sectors.”

Gabriella Bennett writes for The Times Online:

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