Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Friday, 22 August 2008 13:30 UK

Ancient building saved from sea

Bressay mound [Pic: EASE Archaeology]
The site was carefully moved away from the sea [Pic: EASE Archaeology]

A Bronze Age building has been saved from destruction by the sea after a team of archaeologists moved it brick by brick to a safe location.

The 3,500 year old building was discovered during excavations on the island of Bressay in the Shetlands.

Concerned that the ancient site was under threat from coastal erosion, archaeologists decided to move it.

They dismantled, photographed and numbered each stone before carrying them carefully to their new location.

The ancient building at Cruester is thought to be linked to a nearby burnt mound, a large heap of fire-damaged stones thought to be once used for feasts, baths or saunas.

Seeing the stones from the original building being transported away in a fleet of tractors was a fantastic sight
Tom Dawson
St Andrews University

Burnt mounds are quite common throughout Britain and Ireland, but very few of them have been found with associated structures, giving the Bressay building special archaeological significance.

It was discovered during excavations in 2000 which located a series of dry-stone walled cells, connected by two corridors.

At the end of one corridor was a hearth cell, thought to have been used for heating stones, while at the other end was a tank sunk into the ground and constructed of large slabs of stone which is thought to have been used for boiling meat.

Archaeologists from St Andrews University worked alongside local volunteers for three months to move the building and then rebuild at a site next to the Bressay Heritage Centre.

John Scott, vice chairman of the Bressay History Group, said: "They numbered every stone in the structure, took very detailed photographs and measurements and that is how we managed to reconstruct it in exactly the same form.

"We probably moved about 60 tonnes of stone altogether so it has had the nice attraction of being a bit of a daft project but it worked and I think it has turned out to be a really good community project."

'Great support'

St Andrews University archaeologist Tom Dawson said: "Coastal erosion is threatening thousands of sites around Scotland, and the local group here came up with a novel idea for dealing with the problem.

"Although this approach isn't practical everywhere, it is great to have had the chance to give new life to this particular site and make it accessible to future generations, while also learning something new, not just about Cruester, but about burnt mounds in general.

"This has been a fantastic project, and it would not have been possible without the great support that we have had from so many members of the local community. Seeing the stones from the original building being transported away in a fleet of tractors was a fantastic sight."

The building will be officially opened to the public at its new site on Saturday by local MSP Tavish Scott.

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