Monday, January 23, 2023

Lasers Are Mapping Scotland’s Mysterious Iron Age Passages

A laser scan of Cracknie souterrain, capturing every detail in 3D

In February 2022, Graeme Cavers and his team of archaeologists set off in search of a mysterious underground passage called a souterrain. There are around 500 of these Iron Age structures scattered throughout the Scottish Highlands, but nobody knows what they were built for, and no one has ever discovered one intact.

“Perhaps they were for storage, such as grain in sealed pots or dairy products like cheese,” says Matt Ritchie, resident archaeologist at Forestry and Land Scotland. “Perhaps they were for security, keeping valuables safe, or slaves or hostages secure. Or perhaps they were for ceremonial purposes, for household rituals, like a medieval shrine or private chapel.”

Site surveys can help shed light on the condition and structure of souterrains, but they can take at least a week using traditional methods, says Cavers, whose company AOC Archaeology was enlisted by Ritchie to help map the Cracknie Souterrain in Scotland’s Borgie Forest.

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