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Adopt A Monument Scheme

The Unst Amateur Archaeology Group has taken on the job of caring for the Iron Age site excavated at Sandwick, under the Council for Scottish Archaeology's Adopt-a-Monument Scheme, www.scottisharchaeology.org.uk/projects/adopt.html. They worked closely with Helen Bradley, CSA's Adopt-a-Monument Officer, to plan how best to look after the site after the excavation finished. Because what is left of the building is so well preserved, they decided to consolidate the walls and floors and leave the site open to view, so that visitors to the beach can see what was excavated.

Margaret, Jean, Harry and Helen confer. Jim and Rick discuss the consolidation work with the group.

Above Left: Margaret, Jean, Harry and Helen confer. Above Right: Jim and Rick discuss the consolidation work with the group.

During the spring of 2007, a parking area was built and signs were put up directing visitors to the beach; these were funded by Shetland Isles Council. The group invited stonemason Jim Keddie and archaeologist Rick Barton, who have been consolidating and reconstructing the late prehistoric settlement at Old Scatness on mainland Shetland, to help restore the site at Sandwick. Rick and Jim visited during the first week of the dig to discuss with the group what work they would do and to record the walls before parts of them were taken away.

Then, as the excavation finished, Rick and Jim returned and began replacing walls and paving stones, with assistance from the local group and the rest of the excavation team. In Structure 1, where only limited excavation was carried out in 2007, this was fairly straightforward. Across the northern part of the site, the earlier Structure 5 was covered over with a thick layer of sand and stones to build up the ground level for reconstructing Structures 2, 3 and 4. Rick had carefully recorded the positions of all the major stones, so that they could be put back in their original positions, and he and Jim restored the original character of the walls. They put pinning stones into gaps to keep the stonework stable, and laid clay and then turf on the wall heads. A JCB backfilled sand around the cells, and the team laid turf over the backfilled area.

Rick  lays clay and turf on the Structure 1 wall. Jean  advises Harry on where to put stones.

Rick lays clay and turf on the Structure 1 wall.

Jean advises Harry on where to put stones.

Structure  2 rises again. Tom  surpervises backfilling around the cells.

Structure 2 rises again.

Tom surpervises backfilling around the cells.

Structures  3 and 4 are nearly rebuilt. Re-turfing  around Structure 1.

Structures 3 and 4 are nearly rebuilt.

Re-turfing around Structure 1.

Brian  Hunter delivers a load of fresh turf. A tug of war to coax a stone into place.

Brian Hunter delivers a load of fresh turf.

A tug of war to coax a stone into place.

Members of the Unst Amateur Archaeology Group will be visiting the site regularly to the check that the turf knits and the stonework remains stable. The group has been closely involved in investigating the Iron Age building over four seasons of work, from 2004-2007. While the group (along with the rest of the excavation team) will miss working at the site, they and others visiting the beach will at least be able to see the results of their work for as long as it survives.

The new parking area.A stile leads visitors to the site.

The new parking area and stile that leads visitors to the site.

An interpretation board is being put up at the parking area, giving visitors information about the archaeology of the bay; it is jointly funded by the Isla Project through Shetland Amenity Trust and Shetland Isles Council. A leaflet will soon be available at the parking area that gives details on the excavation findings.

The reconstructed site under its blanket of turf.

The reconstructed site under its blanket of turf.

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