Monday, 21 March 2016

A Prehistoric Steeplechase Course

One of the fascinations of archaeology is finding something which defies easy explanation. A structure we found yesterday is an example.

Thirty metres downstream from where this picture was taken, this burn, which drains the southern slopes of Torr na Moine, runs across a shingle beach to meet the sea. It's the stone feature, at left on the opposite bank, which intrigues me.

Two low walls, no more than 50cm high, on the flat land above converge to a point where the burn's bank has been reinforced with a stone wall.

This is the view from the other direction, showing the walls converging to the top of the bank.

If the burn was big enough for a boat to come up it, then this would be perfect for driving animals, such as sheep, onto it. But the burn is narrow, winding, and shallow. But.... perhaps hundreds of years ago the sea was a little higher, the burn a bit deeper and wider, the beach a little narrower and nearer, and the boats of the day built to be dragged across the land.

Alternatively, if there had been another similar structure on the other side, they could have been the supports for the bridge. There isn't one on the other side, although it could have been washed away, and in any case the burn is narrow enough to jump.

So, perhaps this was part of a prehistoric steeplechase course.

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