Archaeologists in Oban discover Bronze Age was height of cool By MOIRA KERR

THEY had fridges, state-of-the-art heating systems and possibly even access to a sauna. Archaeologists have discovered that Bronze Age people, at a settlement on the west coast of Scotland dating back up to 4,000 years, had a range of mod cons that would be envied by home owners today.
A dig on the site of a new housing development near Oban has uncovered what are believed to be some of Scotland’s earliest cold storage larders in six Bronze Age roundhouses. A team led by Dr Clare Ellis, from Argyll Archaeology, claim the roundhouses at Dunstaffnage are the first in Scotland to have ring ditches inside the structure. These may have been used as cellars to cool food – a precursor to the refrigerator. They also have vents leading into the central hearths which would have allowed the occupants to regulate their heating, while outside are the remnants of what could be a very simple form of sauna.
But Ellis said the most significant find was the internal ring ditches. “This is a new design, not recognised or seen before in Scotland. The general consensus until now was that ring ditches occur outside the roof supports of roundhouses, but still within the roundhouse structure, and were erosional features where animals were kept. But these are inside the roof support area and the theory is that they are low cellars that would have had wooden floors over them. We think they are an early form of larder storage system.
“In the Iron Age they had banana-shaped cellars and this would appear to be the precursor to that. They are on the north-east side, the coolest side of the house [away from the sea]. It’s like an early form of refrigeration, where they would keep cheeses, milk, dried meat, salted fish and grain.”
Ellis, 43, said another important find, in terms of Scottish archaeology, was the discovery of air vents coming out of the ring ditches and the hearths. She added: “These channels coming out are wood-lined vents to let air through and to allow the washing-out of some of the ring ditches occasionally. This is a new design that’s not really been recognised or seen in Scotland before.” The vents in the hearths would allow air to be channelled into the base of the fire.
As well as uncovering the roundhouse sites, the team has uncovered ancient burial pits. Other finds include a hammerstone, dating back 3-4,000 years, which would have been used for mashing up vegetable matter.

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