Highlands & Islands

Housebuilder uncovers Iron Age chamber on Lewis

Iron Age underground chamber Image copyright Domhnall Macsween
Image caption The iron Age chamber is known as a souterrain

A 2,000-year-old underground chamber has been uncovered during work to build a house on the Isle of Lewis.

The Iron Age souterrain was revealed during the digging of the foundations for the property in Ness.

Local archaeologists, husband and wife team Chris and Rachel Barrowman, are recording the souterrain.

Dr Barrowman said theories on the purpose of the stone-lined, flat stone-roofed structures included storing food.

Image copyright Dòmhnall MacSuain
Image caption Archaeologists Chris and Rachel Barrowman at the site of the find

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "They are usually associated with what are known as Atlantic roundhouses, or wheelhouses, of the later Iron Age.

"If this one was associated with a roundhouse it is likely to have been cleared away by now."

Image copyright Chris Barrowman
Image caption The souterrain is being recorded by archaeologists
Image copyright Domhnall Macsween
Image caption The souterrain may have been used for storing food

Dr Barrowman, who was asked to check the site by the contractor building the house using equipment from Comunn Eachdraidh Nis (Ness Historical Society), said the souterrain was well preserved.

The archaeologist said he understood it to be the sixth to be recorded in the area.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's regional archaeologist is expected to liaise with the islander building the house on what happens next.

Dr Barrowman said it was likely that, following a full examination and recording of the site, the souterrain would be filled in and covered over to preserve the archaeology and then the construction of the new home would continue as planned.

Image copyright Chris Barrowman
Image caption The ancient chamber was uncovered by chance during the digging of foundations for a house

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