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Stronchrubie Burnt Mound

Burnt mounds are nondescript features. Often horseshoe-shaped or with two crescents facing each other and made up of shattered stones, they are the residue of a simple water heating technology. Stones were placed in a fire and then dropped into water to heat it.

This technique was used for many hundreds of years and for various purposes – cooking, processing wool or hides and perhaps even beer making, but a significant number of burnt mounds appear to have been used as baths, saunas or sweat lodges. Assynt has ten known burnt mounds, and in 2012 one at Stronchrubie was excavated.

Below the dense, hard-packed mound of stone and charcoal was an almost rectangular, 2 metres wide and I metre deep pit with a few surviving large stones from what had once been a lining to the tank. A small channelled into the tank from a former stream bed and this had presumably been used to fill the tank. A tank this size would have been difficult to heat to boiling point and there were no signs of feasting remains and so this site was most probably some sort of bathing facility.

Dates from charcoal samples revealed that its main period of use had been in around 1400 BC during the middle Bronze Age, but that surprisingly there had been a further period of use nearly two thousand years later in the 800’s AD. There were no signs of houses or other features contemporary with either period of use which leaves a lot of unanswered questions.


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