Edinburgh, August 25 : A team of archaeologists has saved a 3,500-year-old structure in an island off the coast of Scotland, thought to have been used as a sauna, from destruction by the sea.
According to a report in the Scotsman, the building, which dates from between 1500BC and 1200BC, was unearthed on the Shetland island of Bressay eight years ago. It was found in the heart of the Burnt Mound at Cruester, a Bronze Age site on the coast of Bressay facing Lerwick.
But earlier this summer, because of the increased threat of coastal erosion, local historians joined archaeologists to launch a campaign to save the building and to move it somewhere safer.
A third of the mound had already been lost to sea erosion.
The central structure was carefully dismantled and each stone numbered before being moved to a site a mile way next to Bressay Heritage Centre.
Following the completion of the unusual removal scheme, the Bronze Age building will be officially opened at its new location by Tavish Scott, the MSP for Shetland.
According to Douglas Coutts, the project officer with Bressay History Group, the structure was one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made in the Northern Isles.
The building was hidden in a mound of burnt stones and is thought to have been used for feasts, baths or even saunas.
The structure comprises a series of dry-stone, walled cells, connected by two corridors.
At the end of one corridor is a hearth cell, thought to have been used for heating stones, and at the other end is a tank sunk into the ground which is almost two metres long, more than a metre wide, and half a metre deep.
"We have approximately 300 burnt mounds on Shetland but only four or five have been excavated and, of those, the Cruester mound is the most fascinating and complex. It looks as if it has been in use for anything between 500 to 1,000 years," said Coutts.
Coutts said that these cells may have originally been roofed over in a beehive shape.
"One theory is that these structures may have been used for cooking meat or tanning hides," he said. "But it is possible they could have raised steam by heating the water and that these little cells could have been used as saunas," he added.