The Tomb Trailers Are At It Again… Or…The Joys Of Midden!

By Bernie Bell

It started as ‘Landscapes of the Dead’ ………..

Had to be postponed due to Covid – was resurrected and re-named as ‘Tombs of the Isles’ and is now going strong with various open days and events being held across the Isles.

The most recent, at the Knap of Howar on Papay Westray, has been particularly interesting as it has given the archaeologists on site an opportunity to view a midden deposit eroding on to the shore.

Midden might not be everyone’s favourite subject, and its appeal can very much depend on how old it is! 

This midden is very old – about 5,000 years old.  To quote Dr. Jen Harland of UHI Archaeology Research Institute……

“The oysters, and other shells, have real potential as a ‘biological archive’, because they contain within them a record of climatic conditions when they were grown, as well as potentially containing genetic material that could help with reconstructing oyster beds.

Excavated in a controlled and modern way, with good dating, they could help with past sea-surface temperatures, as well as working out the season that they were harvested – were people eating shellfish all year round, or were they reserved for the spring, when little else was available?”

Want to know more?  Read on……..

Knap of Howar © Copyright Alpin Stewart

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