Highlands & Islands

Charcoal clues to Assynt's Bronze Age woodland

Bathing site
Image caption Charcoal recovered from a pit at the burnt mound were examined

Analysis of charcoal at the site of a suspected Bronze Age "sauna" suggests the surrounding area hosted a rich and diverse woodland.

Archaeologists have been examining what is called a burnt mound at Stronechrubie, in Assynt.

Wood from birch, alder, hazel and hawthorn, or apple, trees has been identified.

Archaeologists said the species were far more diverse than those found in Assynt today.

Excavations of the burnt mound - a crescent shaped mound of stones - revealed a metre-deep pit linked to a nearby stream by a channel.

The find was made by the Fire and Water Project, which is run by archaeology and history group Historic Assynt and AOC Archaeology.

The project's archaeologists believe it may have been created for bathing, or as a sauna.

Other possible uses for the site included cooking and feasting, or perhaps brewing, but no food or cooking remains have been found so far.

Gordon Sleight, projects leader for Historic Assynt, said the charcoal was examined in a lab set up in Stoer Village Hall.

He said: "It has been amazing to realise just how much charcoal we dug up, when what we thought we had was mostly sooty stone, and it has been really interesting to use microscopes to see the internal structure of the charcoal and identify the tree species."

Jack Robertson, of AOC archaeologist, added: "We have identified alder, hazel, birch and one of the hawthorn/apple/pear/quince group of species, and we have also found some interesting heat-affected stones and some possible worked stone."

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