Islanders Whip Up Storm over Iron Age Cover-Up

By Bennett, Will | The Independent (London, England), May 7, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Islanders Whip Up Storm over Iron Age Cover-Up

Bennett, Will, The Independent (London, England)

The winds which gust across the remote Scottish island of Great Bernera with Hebridean vigour have whipped up a dispute about the future of a late Iron Age village which is being excavated by archaeologists.

The problem for the experts digging at the 2,000-year-old site is that the wind is stripping away the sand surrounding the walls making them difficult to preserve once they have completed their excavations.

Historic Scotland, which is responsible for ancient sites, has upset people on Great Bernera, off the larger island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, by suggesting that the village should be covered over when digging has finished.

This and an alternative plan to remove some stones from the site to an as yet undecided location has triggered the first rebellion on the island since crofters rioted over the threat of eviction in 1874.

It is being led by Count Robin de la Lanne Mirrlees, 72, a French-born aristocrat, who has been the laird of the 7,000-acre island since 1962.

He said: "I am thrilled by the find and want to see it preserved. I own the foreshore and therefore this site. Unless it can be proved an engineering impossibility I do not want my property tampered with. Nor should any of the artefacts be removed off this island."

The village, which covers a quarter of an acre by the seashore, was discovered by a team from the Edinburgh University centre for field archaeology after repeated finds of persistent reports of stone walls and pottery falling out of a rapidly eroding shoreline.

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