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About the Project

Bronze Age Bressay! was an ambitious and innovative project to reconstruct an eroding Bronze Age site on the island of Bressay, Shetland. The site, the Burnt Mound at Cruester, originally sat on the northwest coast facing Shetland's capital, Lerwick. A previous excavation in 2000 revealed an impressive array of stone cells, together with a large hearth, a cistern, a stone tank and a sloping chute or passageway. These had all been built into a mound, formed from discarded stones that had been heated and then plunged into water.

Burnt mounds with structures within them are very rare, and the Cruester Burnt Mound is one of only a handful of known examples. The Bressay History Group monitored the continued erosion of the structures following the excavation, and as the site became increasingly threatened by the sea they approached the Adopt-a-Monument Scheme and The SCAPE Trust in the hope that something might be done to preserve what remained. A project team was formed and funding was secured from a number of sources.

Team members planning the project at the eroding site

The project ran through June and July 2008 and involved the excavation and dismantling of the site, which was then transported to Bressay’s Heritage Centre where it was reconstructed. The replica structures, built at the same time as the reconstruction was carried out, were intended to be fully functioning so that they could be used as a centre for experimental work into these enigmatic structures. Volunteers were trained in drystone walling and a range of archaeological techniques.

The reconstruction will be open to the public and the finished site is being interpreted for the public with an on-site information panel, a leaflet, and a permanent exhibition at the Bressay Heritage Centre. The project also includes a twelve month education and outreach programme led by Bressay History Group and involving the local school and volunteers from all over Shetland. Events have so far included Open Days, a series of public lectures, Living History days, ancient technology workshops (such as pottery making) and Experimental Archaeology days.


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