Post-excavation work is progressing well on the whalebone vessel unearthed at The Cairns late last year.
The vessel not only contained a human jawbone, but also animal bones, remains of ceramic pots and stone tools.
University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute MLitt student, Karen Kennedy, is working with Dr Ingrid Mainland (Programme Leader for MLitt Archaeological Studies), examining, recording and cataloguing the animal bone fragments as part of her research into ‘Feasting in the Iron Age’.
Initial findings suggest that neonatal lamb, calf and pig bones were deposited within and around the huge whalebone container in addition to fragments of broken pottery and stone tools. This indicates that the inhabitants of the broch took part in a final feast and ceremony to close the structure down following hundreds of years of occupation.
Post-excavation work on the whalebone is almost complete. The object has been carefully cleaned and emptied of all contents. This has enabled a closer examination of the huge find and gives us an insight into the processes involved in the making of this impressive piece. The transverse processes had clearly been hacked off with a sharp blade, but when examined closer, small knife marks are clearly visible around the rim and the whole of the interior.
The Iron Age inhabitants of The Cairns broch seemed to have a liking for whalebone. This object forms part of a growing collection of whalebone objects emerging from the site. Over 60 whalebone objects have been unearthed in the 2016 season alone.
Karen’s work will not only add to our understanding of the rituals involved at The Cairns but on a personal level, will also enhance her career prospects as she learns new techniques involved in front line archaeological research.
More details concerning our research at The Cairns will be discussed at ‘Our Islands, Our Past’ conference being held in Kirkwall between 14th and 17th September 2017. For more information about our conference, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or see our conference website.