V(otum) S(olvit) L(ibens) M(erito)

News and stories from the world of Archaeology and its related disciplines

Scotland’s oldest pub

From Daily record:

A historic site’s true purpose may have been revealed – as an Iron Age boozer.

Experts believe that 4600 years ago, thirsty natives may have been enjoying a pie and pint at Jarlshof in Shetland.

They say the layout of the stone settlement near Sumburgh Head suggests it may be the oldest pub ever found in Britain.

And a dozen or so quernstones – for grinding barley – indicate it may have served as both a drinking den and a bakery.

Jarlshof, described as “one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles” was first revealed after a storm in 1890.

It contains remains dating from 2500 BC up to the 17th century.

Experts including Shetland regional archaeologist Val Turner are in no doubt that – pub or not – there was beer being brewed at Jarlshof in the Iron Age.

Dr Noel Fojut, author of Prehistoric And Viking Shetland, said: “We know communal feasting, and probably drinking, was a feature of Iron Age life. Providing lavish hospitality seems to have been an important means of establishing social status.

“It’s difficult, however, to distinguish an inn or pub – where people paid – from a communal dining/drinking house.

“It’s an attractive idea that there may have a welcoming ‘howff’ at Shetland’s southern landfall and perfectly possible.

“But it’s much more likely any hospitality would have been offered by a local family, rather than by a commercial landlord as we’d imagine one today.”

The building has a house next door which has a large souterrain – which was the equivalent of a Iron Age refrigerator used for storing smoked or salted meats.

And during the early Iron Age, the site at Jarlshof was surrounded by crops of barley and emmer, a kind of wheat.

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