A slightly surprising discovery during the last field season at the Cairns, Structure F appears to represent the very well-preserved remains of an underground building.
The souterrain, or earth-house, was constructed after the broch was disused and filled in with rubble, but it appears to makes use of the old broch’s entrance passage to form the chamber of this souterrain.
The discovery of the Structure F souterrain is very good news for us as it allows us to examine another example of a souterrain that is (mostly) undisturbed. A small amount of modern interference was detected while were excavating in 2010. This took the form of a hole that had been made down into the passage, probably in the second half of the twentieth century, and which had been back-filled with soils that included modern china, iron objects and even old timbers.
From 2003 to 2005, excavations were conducted at an extremely well-preserved souterrain, 400 metres south of the current excavation, which was brought to light by the geophysical surveys. It appears to have been built in the later Bronze Age and was surmounted by a less well-preserved structure, perhaps a house.
The rich artefact assemblage included stone tools, personal glass and jet objects, evidence of butchery and grain processing etc. Activity here continued into the middle Iron Age, making it contemporary with the “broch-period” activity at the Cairns, up the hill. This makes the Windwick souterrain a fascinating comparanda in relation to the suite of archaeology at the Cairns, where excavations continue this year.
While we were assessing the interior of the souterrain for future full excavation, a shaped, whale tooth was found, which may originally have been a pommel for an item like a sword.
The souterrain will be one of the principal areas for excavation attention this season, and we wait with anticipation to see what further exciting discoveries are made!