A 2,000-year-old underground fridge has been discovered by accident on a Scottish Island.
The 20-foot (six-metre) long Iron Age chamber, thought to be used around 350BC, was discovered during construction work for a new house being built in Ness on the Isle of Lewis.
Experts believe it could have been used for storage, such as dairy and meat products, or for wood used for heating.
A 2,000-year-old underground fridge dating back 2,000 years has accidentally been discovered on a Scottish Island during home construction works
Local archaeologists Chris and Rachel Barrowman have been recording the souterrain, which Dr Barrowman says is a rare find for Ness.
‘The digger driver found it while stripping back foundations for a house that’s going to be built’, he said.
‘He just saw this big void in front of him, about a metre deep, that extended like a long passageway.
‘He called me and asked me to come and have a look and I recognised immediately that it was a souterrain – it’s about three feet below the ground’, he said.
The chamber is from the middle of the Iron Age and has a typical shape – a narrow passageway and stonewalling.
The 20-foot (six-metre) long Iron Age chamber, thought to be used around 350BC, was discovered during the digging of foundations for a house being built in Ness on the Isle of Lewis
Experts believe it could have been used for storage, such as dairy and meat products, or maybe whatever fuel was being used for heating. The chamber is from the middle of the Iron Age and has a typical shape – a narrow passageway and stonewalling
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT IRON AGE BRITAIN?
The Iron Age in Britain started around 800BC and finished in 43AD when the Bronze Age began.
As suggested by the name, this period saw large scale changes thanks to the introduction of iron working technology.
During this period the population of Britain probably exceeded one million.
This was made possible by new forms of farming, such as the introduction of new varieties of barley and wheat.
The invention of the iron-tipped plough made cultivating crops in heavy clay soils possible for the first time.
Some of the major advances during included the introduction of the potter’s wheel, the lathe (used for woodworking) and rotary quern for grinding grain.
There are nearly 3,000 Iron Age hill forts in the UK. Some were used as permanent settlements, others were used as sites for gatherings, trade and religious activities.
At the time most people were living in small farmsteads with extended families.
The standard house was a roundhouse, made of timber or stone with a thatch or turf roof.
Burial practices were varied but it seems most people were disposed of by ‘excarnation’ – meaning they were left deliberately exposed.
There are also some bog bodies preserved from this period, which show evidence of violent deaths in the form of ritual and sacrificial killing.
Towards the end of this period there was increasing Roman influence from the western Mediterranean and southern France.
It seems that before the Roman conquest of England in 43AD they had already established connections with lots of tribes and could have exerted a degree of political influence.
After 43AD all of Wales and England below Hadrian’s Wall became part of the Roman empire, while Iron Age life in Scotland and Ireland continued for longer.
‘At first he thought it was something modern but when he saw what it was he realised it was a lot older’, said Mrs Barrowman.
‘It would have probably been used for food storage and maybe even peats. It was a sort of ancient fridge.
These structures are common but it is rare to find one as well-preserved.
They are usually connected to a roundhouse, or a wheelhouse – which date back to the late Iron Age.
‘But it is hard to tell because they are always empty and clean when you find them’, said Dr Barrowman.
These structures are common but it is rare to find one as well-preserved. They are usually connected to a roundhouse, or a wheelhouse – which date back to the late Iron Age
The chamber was found on Ness on the Isle of Lewis. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s regional archaeologist is expected to liaise with the person building the house to determine what will happen next
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s regional archaeologist is expected to liaise with the person building the house to determine what will happen next.
At the end of last year archaeologists in the Highlands unearthed another possible Iron Age structure, tool and pottery pieces during roadworks.
The discoveries were made on the Crubenmore to Kincraig stretch of the A9, which is to be made into a dual-carriageway.
The experts found pottery fragments, part of a plough and a previously-unknown structure close to a prehistoric underground structure called Raitt’s Cave, near Kingussie.
Traces of a previously-unknown structure were identified together with a scattering of pottery fragments and a possible stone Ard point – a stone worked into a point for use as part of a plough.