28th August 2015: Prehistoric Festival: North Yarrows (Caithness)


To celebrate 150 years of Joseph Anderson (1832-1916) who developed archaeology as a discipline in Scotland, I was asked to attend a prehistoric festival on the north shores of Loch Yarrows in Caithness, which is part of the Yarrow Archaeology Trail. In 1865, Anderson excavated several of the Neolithic chambered tombs around the loch, including the Battle Moss stone row - a series of eight roughly parallel rows of small upright stone slabs.

Yarrows - caithness

On the day, I was joined by:

  • Ancient Arts (Copper smelting)
  • Wild Rose Escapes (Natural dyeing and prehistoric cooking) ~ below left
  • Meg Sinclair (Pottery) ~ below right
  • Jenny MacKenzie Ross (Open hearth pottery firing)
  • Ian Dennis (Antler and bone working)

wild rose escapes meg sinclair

During the evening the cooked venison and trout was dug out of the pit and served to eat, while local stories and tales were read to the gathered crowd. The final spectacle involved the burning of a wooden facade sculpture, framed by the full moon. The build ‘n’ burn performance was created by Dr Kenny Brophy and  Dr Gavin McGregor at Northlight Heritage, in collaboration with Cara Berger from Theatres Studies, and Brianna Robertson from the Music Department.

Joseph Anderson further went on to investigate the Iron Age Broch (below) and a many of the Bronze Age cairns around the loch, as well as numerous other monuments across Caithness. The broch is 10m in diameter, with walls that are 4m thick and up to 4m high; it also has two entrances, which is very unusual. It is believed that the entrance facing the loch was originally built into the broch and the entrance in the south wall pushed through after the settlement outbuildings were added.

yarrows broch

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