New Bronze Age “sauna house” discovered in Orkney

Orkney has long intrigued archaeologists. Credit: Shadowgate/Flickr

Orkney has long intrigued archaeologists.
Credit: Shadowgate/Flickr

Archaeologists in Orkney have unearthed the remains of over 30 buildings dating from around 4000 BC to 1000 BC, together with field systems, middens and cemeteries.

The incredible find includes a very rare Bronze Age building that experts believed could have been a sauna or steam house, which could have been built for ritual purposes.

EASE Archaeology, an Edinburgh based contractor, recently made the exciting discovery on the periphery of the prehistoric Links of Noltland, on the island of Westray in Orkney, next to where the famous ‘Westray Wife’ was found in 2009, which is believed to be the earliest depiction of a human face in Britain.

The work, which is being funded by Historic Scotland, has been researching the area around Links of Noltland for several years now but this is the most notable discovery of late.

Rod McCullagh, Deputy Head of Archaeology Strategy at Historic Scotland, said:

“This is a beautifully preserved site with lots of tantalising clues pointing to its use as an important building, central to the community who built it.”

He added that its purpose is still unclear but suggested what it may have been used for.

“What this would have been used for we don’t know exactly but the large scale, elaborate architecture and sophistication of the structure all suggest that it was used for more than just cooking. Whether its purpose was for feasting, rituals, important discussions, or maybe just for the same reasons we use saunas for today, is something we don’t yet know.

“This is just the start of an exciting but painstaking process of analysis and research work but one which gradually adds to our understanding of what activities occurred here 4000 years ago.”

The site will now be carefully covered in order to best protect it from the harsh Orkney winter, before potentially re-excavating again in Spring 2016.

 

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