The remains of an ancient cemetery thousands of years old have been discovered at the site of a British spaceport.
The discovery was made during groundwork at the SaxaVord complex in the Shetland Islands, which hopes to host the UK’s first vertical rocket launch before the end of 2023.
Pits, boulders, and charred bones were found with white quartz, associated with burial tombs and rock art, suggesting that this was a ritual burial cemetery.
Archaeologists working at the site believe it dates back to the Early Bronze Age, from around 2200 to 1800 BC.
Shetland regional archaeologist Dr Val Turner said the discovery was “extremely interesting”.
He added: “The Bronze Age is probably the period of Shetland’s past that we know the least about, and this is a fantastic opportunity to change that.”
SaxaVord said it would continue to support the study, and that it would not disrupt work on the spaceport.
3D printed rocket engine could power UK launches
Spaceport to ‘get clearance by end of summer’
The site, on the Long Ness Peninsula in Inst, wants to host a number of launches this year – but is awaiting its spaceport license from the Civil Aviation Authority.
Its application came last year and the company is confident that it will be approved soon.
Chief operating officer Debbie Strong told Sky News: “We are confident they will deliver by the end of the summer.
“It will be a real celebration when we get the license – it will be a big step because it’s not just Shetland, Scotland, or the UK but Europe – the first vertical launch site in Europe.”
Ms Strong was speaking after the company co-launched Starflight Academy, an educational initiative that invites children into an interactive virtual classroom to learn about space and what it takes to become an astronaut.
It was created in collaboration with education tech company RM Technology and NASA teacher Mike Mongo, who debuted it at the Goodwood Festival of Speed’s Future Lab exhibit.
Britain’s space industry, which was worth £7bn to the economy last year, is keen to involve the public as it seeks to become a major player in the sector globally.
Britain has a large satellite manufacturing industry, but is desperately trying to bounce back. A failed attempt to launch a Nuke into space in January.