South Scotland

Whithorn Iron Age roundhouse works in full swing

Roundhouse
Image caption The roundhouse is being built using traditional methods

Living history is about to take on a whole new meaning in Whithorn.

An Iron Age roundhouse is being built in the town to show how people lived in Galloway in the fifth century BC.

It is 13m in diameter, nine metres high and is made of various types of wood - all things that are known to be completely accurate thanks to an amazing archaeological find.

It is a modern interpretation of how a roundhouse would have looked - but one informed, very accurately, by a 2,500-year-old template.

Last year, in nearby woodland, archaeologists found an amazingly well-preserved roundhouse under the peat of a so-called loch village, the only one of its kind in Scotland, occupied by a native tribe around 500 BC.

That state of preservation has allowed for great attention to detail in the rebuilding project.

Image caption Thatching methods have changed little over the years

"There are a few Iron Age buildings going up around the country - you come across them every now and then - not usually one as big as this one I have to say," said master thatcher Jonathan Botterell.

He said traditional ways were being used where possible.

"The methods haven't changed very much as far as I know, nor the tools," he said.

He has been showing volunteers how to do the craftwork with Iron Age costume adding to the authenticity for some, including Dumfries-based artist and historical re-enactor Simon Lidwell.

"It is the taking of crafts and the real physical things and creating a space where people can walk back through time in their imagination and learn about where we have come from," he explained.

"That is really what draws me to this particular project.

"But it is also very relevant because, in an age where people are separated from the means of production and from hands-on making of things, it takes you right back to where you can work with primitive materials in very sophisticated ways."

Image caption Ms Muir-Watt said the building could be used as a prehistoric classroom

Whithorn is where St Ninian first brought Christianity to Scotland around 1,600 years ago and archaeological tourism is already the town's lifeblood.

The roundhouse project was the idea of the Whithorn Trust which already runs a visitor centre and tours.

Development manager Julia Muir-Watt said: "What is interesting to us is that there is much more of a continuum.

"That is to say that Christianity did not come into a vacuum, it came into the middle of an Iron Age society that was well-developed and in touch with the Roman Empire and probably ripe for new ideas which accompanied the arrival of Christianity."

She said the roundhouse would be part of visitor attractions by next year, hopefully with a launch around Easter.

It should enjoy a wide variety of uses.

"Local schools will be using it as a prehistoric classroom," she said.

"And we hope for more unusual uses such as event hire, performance and perhaps for us in the summer to run workshops in traditional crafts and that kind of thing."

Image copyright AOC Archaeology
Image caption The roundhouses were part of a "well-developed" society in the area

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