NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Bronze age burial uncovered at Orkney sub station site

Archaeologists standing round cist Image copyright ORCA Archaeology
Image caption The cist archaeologists have uncovered lies on top of a glacial mound

Archaeologists have discovered a Bronze age burial pit while excavating the site of a proposed new sub electricity sub station in Orkney.

The stone lined box capped with a large flat stone was unearthed at Finstown, ahead of construction work by SSEN Transmission.

The pit - known as a cist - appears to be empty, though it would once have contained bones or cremated remains.

It's thought the burial dates back around 3,500 years.

The team from ORCA Archaeology based at Orkney College are exploring and recording the features and history of the site on behalf of the power firm.

Image copyright ORCA Archaeology
Image caption The cist appears to be empty, but may contain traces of human remains

Senior project manager Pete Higgins told BBC Radio Orkney the dig followed earlier exploratory work in the area.

"SSE commissioned us to do some work to find out what was on the site they wanted to use," he said.

"So we've done a test base survey, we've done geo-physical surveys, and we've walked over the site and seen what's there.

"So actually turning up archaeology wasn't a surprise."

But, he says, what they've discovered is a "major find".

'Rough cobbles'

He said they have planned a very slow and careful investigation of the cist, because there may be remains of bones in there.

"But that's not the only puzzle we've got," he added.

"We've also got a stone surface, made of very rough cobbles.

"We're still trying to work out quite what its relationship is to the cist, and quite what it would have been used for."

Image copyright ORCA Archaeology
Image caption The site - between Stromness and Kirkwall - is due to be home to a new electricity sub station

SSEN Transmission wants to build the sub station - midway between Stromness and Kirkwall - as part of its investment to enable renewables projects in Orkney to link up with the main UK wide grid.

Environmental project manager Simon Hall said the company was "delighted" ORCA Archaeology had found "such an exciting feature, that otherwise may never have been found.

"We look forward to continuing to work closely with ORCA as the excavation progresses."

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