Archaeology Swartigill Dig Diary

Swartigill Dig Season Ends


Rick Barton summarises the dig season at Swartigill.

“Another season of excavation at the Swartigill Burn has ended. The day excavation seems to have flown by so quickly, and we have made a great deal of progress towards defining the form of the structures in the trench.

More of the capstones over the possible drain feature are now visible, and they are very chunky! Elsewhere, things are becoming increasingly complex, and it seems that whenever we peel back the alluvium we come straight down onto rubble and structural features!

However, we are starting to see the shape of a sub-rectangular building, which appears to match the feature identified within the geophysics! We love it when a plan comes together. A peaty layer overlays the rubble in the centre of the trench and dark

A peaty layer overlays the rubble in the centre of the trench and dark charcoal-rich deposits sealed the structural remains within the western quarter. We are hopeful that these deposits will yield some useful datable material and environmental evidence relating to the abandonment of the site.

Our most interesting find of the season so far was recovered from a rubble layers within the south-east end of the trench. Meg Sinclair, one of our experienced volunteer archaeologists, recovered a beautifully shaped whetstone, a stone tool used for sharpening metal objects. This artefact tapers to one end and shows signs of wear along its edges. There is also a small dimple on one side of its narrow end, possibly where the owner had begun to drill a hole to hang the object from their belt. As you can see in the photo, the two pieces of this object fit together perfectly.


Our very own Scott Timpany from the UHI Archaeology Institute has been exploring the soils across the flood plain. The results of his exploration will hopefully give us an insight into the environment at Swartigill during the Iron Age, how the soils around the site formed and how it changed through time.

We finished sampling and recording the site for this year on Sunday the 30th. Bobby Friel, an experienced freelance archaeologist working with us on this project, managed to obtain some last minute elevated photographs of the site before it was covered and protected. You can see from the photo that a structure is really starting to take shape, and looking more and more intriguing all the time.


Thanks to the Yarrows Heritage Trust for inviting us back to work with them on this fascinating project. Thanks also to everyone who came to see us and to all our volunteer archaeologists who helped us excavate the site in what were at times very challenging conditions. These projects would not be possible without you.

Special thanks to Islay Macleod for her tireless efforts to make the excavation happen and her drive to take the project forward in the future.

Watch this space for more information on the site as we begin to get into the post-excavation.”

Rick Barton 2017