A TEAM of archaeologists has begun excavations on the Moray coast to try to unlock more of the secrets of the largest surviving Pictish fort built in Scotland.
The fort, on the headland at Burghead, is believed to have been a major power base of the kingdom of the Northern Picts 1,600 years ago.
Plans to demolish a wartime look-out station on the headland to pave the way for a Pictish visitor centre have given archaeologists a rare window of opportunity to learn more about the fort’s construction.
A team from the Edinburgh-based Centre for Field Archaeology will spend three weeks on a major dig, excavating part of what were the main ramparts.
They will strip away more than 150 tonnes of modern rubble and soil to determine how the ramparts were built.
Kirsty Cameron, the project manager on the dig, said: "This is the first large-scale excavation of the ramparts since excavations in 1860 and 1890. It is thought that the ramparts were built by using a timber structure, almost like scaffolding, and then putting rubble in to strengthen it. This type of construction is very rare."
Work will start on building a heritage and interpretation centre once the archaeologists have completed the dig.
The Burghead Headland Trust, which became custodian of the important scheduled ancient monument in 1999, has secured 200,000 in funding to turn the Second World War storm signal post into a museum, with an underground chamber and upper platform offering panoramic views of the Moray Firth.
The trust is planning to complete the visitor centre by the summer.
Mollie Fraser, the trust’s chairwoman, said: "We want to highlight the importance of this site, and its history and heritage, to both residents and visitors, and to preserve it for the future. We hope this will become an established visitor attraction on both tourist and historic trails in this part of Scotland."