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History / Garden digs uncover items from centuries past

A dig taking place in the RBS gardens. Photo: Archaeology Institute UHI

ARTEFACTS dating back to the 17th Century are among the pieces which have been found so far in a series of garden digs in Lerwick.

The digs, aimed at exploring the town’s early settlement and trading past, got underway on Friday.

Among the finds are items like imported European pottery, gun flints, animal bone and shells.

Pieces of pottery. Photo: Archaeology Institute UHI

Households were previously encouraged to get in touch to offer space in their garden for test pits.

The project involves the University of the Highlands and Islands and Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), with volunteers helping from Archaeology Shetland.

ORCA’s Dan Lee told Shetland News on Monday that the team have been in six gardens, digging 11 test pits.

A decorated clay pipe bowl. Photo: Archaeology Institute UHI

They will then depart on Wednesday.

Lee said the digs – the first of their kind in Lerwick – have been a “real success” so far.

Their locations have spanned from Chromate Lane to Pitt Lane.

Lee said items found should help form a picture of how people lived in Lerwick centuries ago – from their diet, to the items they threw out their homes.

One hope is that the digs will uncover more about the range of goods imported into Shetland in years gone by.

It has also given a chance for local archaeology enthusiasts to bag some experience on digs, with one teenager for example finding gun flint, which is part of old ammunition.

“That’s been a real bonus for the project as well,” Lee said.

A full report on the digs will be produced by the archeologists in due course.

It all forms part of the part of the Looking in from the Edge (LIFTE) project – an international initiative examining the Northern Isles’ place in European trade networks of the 15th to 18th centuries.