Archaeology The Cairns

The Cairns – June 16th

DSCN0970Weather breaks at The South Ronaldsay excavation.

Derek, one of our M.Litt. Archaeological Studies students, writes….

The weather, which had been good for the last few days, has broken down and we have had a typical Orkney summer day – cold, windy and pouring rain. Naturally the site was soaking wet and muddy.This is my first dig and it’s the weather I have been dreading, but the excavation must carry on regardless.

We started by going to where we left off yesterday and then Martin and Becky assigned us to our tasks for the day. Being rather more “mature” than most of the diggers, and lacking experience in most of the jobs, I drew the long straw and was assigned to small finds processing – an office job, in the dry, with Kev, our small finds expert.

The western broch wall emerging.

I made up lots of finds bags and learned how finds are processed, a vital part of any excavation. Business was a bit slow at the beginning, but ended with a mad rush near closing time. My initial impression after the polythene sheeting was removed was of a large pile of jumbled stones, with some obvious walls and a few orthostats (upright stones) spread around.

Martin, the site director took us around and gradually I started to see the different structures on the site. Unearthing my first find, a rather nondescript piece of pottery, was a triumphal experience but was very quickly trumped when another excavator found part of a ring, possibly made of jet, which was undoubtedly the find the day.

I fared no better the next day. While clearing rubble in the broch, my neighbour, a few feet away, unearthed a magnificent bronze pin. I found a few shells.

The finds which I was dealing with today were not as spectacular as the bronze pin, but continued to show the detritus of life in the Iron Age which will allow archaeologists to better understand how people lived and worked.

Thanks to Sigurd Towrie and the Orkneyjar site blog