Quarrying of sand on beach damages ancient burial site
AN ANCIENT burial site has been damaged after an estimated 1,000 tonnes of sand was removed from a beach in the north of Scotland without permission.
It is being claimed the action exposed human remains from the Pictish cemetery at Ackergill on the Hempriggs Estate in Caithness.
Highland Council said the sand was removed without planning permission and police have been notified along with Historic Scotland. A council spokesman said the material was taken to a contractor's yard near Watten and left a "gaping hole" in the sand, damaged a Second World War look-out post, and disturbed the Picto-Norse cemetery.
He added: "No planning permission had been sought for the removal of the sand, contrary to planning rules."
The spokesman said the council gave the estate’s agents 14 days to make a retrospective planning application for the quarrying of sand but no application was received.
The cemetery was initially identified in the 19th century and was partially excavated in 1925-26.
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said Ackergill is an example of a fine Pictish cemetery, and the disturbance to the archaeology of the area appears to be serious.
Last night Bruce de Wert, the estate factor, said: "The trustees were most concerned to hear of the circumstances of the damage to this archaeological site.
"It is unfortunate that the exact locality of the graveyard amongst the miles of sand dunes along Sinclair's Bay had not been clearly marked or scheduled.
"As a result, when works were being carried out to remove sand and repair the old sea walls which were being overcome by the dunes, the boundaries of the graveyard were inadvertently breached."
He said immediately after learning of the situation the trustees stopped the sand removal.
Consultations now have taken place with the planning department and archaeologists.
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