A MAJOR community archaeology project taking place at a Highland broch this summer is set to shed light on Iron-Age life.

Volunteers are welcome at the dig at the broch at Clachtoll, in Assynt, one of the most important Iron-Age settlements on the north-west coast of Scotland. Work will take place at the site from Monday to Friday until September 30.

Experts say the project could become a model for the protection of threatened archaeological sites.

Organised by Historic Assynt, the dig will be accompanied by a range of events. After this summer’s initial excavation and protection of the monument, there will be research into the archaeological finds over the winter and further consolidation and interpretation activities in 2018.

“The project will involve conservation and excavation of the broch, including removal of hundreds of tonnes of rubble from inside the building,” said Gordon Sleight, chairman of Historic Assynt. “Underneath it we believe that there are undisturbed Iron-Age layers that could prove very exciting. There will also be some excavation outside the broch, to discover what was present in its immediate surroundings and to better understand some of the other Iron-Age buildings in the area.”

Earlier projects in 2011 and 2014 addressed concerns that the broch was becoming unsafe, and involved preliminary investigations. These revealed some of the complexities of the building, which would have stood up to 14 metres (40 feet) high, with a double-walled cooling-tower shape, chambers between the inner and outer circular walls, protective building over the entrance passage, a first-floor gallery, and a scarcement ledge on which the first floor would have rested.

The earlier excavations also found charcoal, dated from between 150BC and 50AD, which archaeologists believed to originate from a catastrophic fire that caused the building to collapse. They believe whatever lies underneath the rubble inside the broch is therefore likely to date from before this time, and thus could reveal fascinating insights into our Iron-Age past.

The ruins of hundreds of brochs remain around the Scottish coastline, but few have an undisturbed interior – so the Clachtoll broch is considered an important and potentially unique archaeological monument. The people who built it were part of a sophisticated maritime culture stretching up to the Northern Isles and out to the Hebrides at a time prior to the Roman conquest of southern Britain.

“Historic Assynt’s programme of conservation works at Clachtoll broch has come to the rescue of one of the most important Iron-Age settlements on the north west coast of Scotland, aiming to halt the processes of erosion that could eventually cause the broch to collapse and be lost for ever,” said Graeme Cavers, lead archaeologist at the dig.

“As a combined conservation and archaeological research project, the works at Clachtoll could be a model for how we protect and learn about our threatened archaeological sites.”

Local community organisation Historic Assynt, along with the Scottish Wildlife Trust, has raised about £500,000 to cover the cost of the dig. Funding has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, SSE’s Sustainable Development Fund, The Pilgrim Trust, Highland Council through the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund and individual donors.

See clachtoll.aocarchaeology.com for details of how to take part.