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Burnt Mounds

Burnt mounds are prehistoric monuments found throughout Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and parts of continental Europe. The mounds built up as people discarded stones that had been heated and then brought them into contact with water, either to heat it or to produce steam. Most of the stones are fire-reddened and many cracked or shattered as they came into contact with the water.

Burnt mounds today are often grass-covered and unimpressive to look at. It is only where the turf has been damaged that the stones are visible.

A grass-covered burnt mound

The mounds can form quite a size, suggesting that certain areas were used over prolonged periods of time. Sometimes, troughs or other water tanks are found within the pile of burnt stones, but it is not known what the sites were used for. Many suggestions have been given, including: cooking or feasting sites; places of industry, such as tanning or fulling workshops; or places to bathe or have a sauna. In some unusual cases, burnt mounds have permanent structures within them. This is very rare, and the site at Cruester is one of the handful of such sites that is known about. Most of the other known sites with structures are found in Shetland, although one has been recorded in Orkney and another in the Western Isles. Very few of these sites have been excavated and previous work at Cruester has given us a great insight into these unusual monuments.

Structures within the Cruester burnt mound

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