Archaeology The Cairns Dig Diary 2019

The Cairns Day 7 – 2019

Looking across the main trench to Windwick Bay in the East

Today it is the turn of Lorna Morrison, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology student to write the daily blog at The Cairns dig….

Hi Lorna here- the oldest undergrad. student on site. As a UHI student I have two weeks here on my ‘Excavation Skills’ module.

Weather today – breezy and sunny at The Cairns, and the ground dries quickly as we work. My first task today was to clean around some of the orthostats in the Broch inner passageway to prepare them for recording. A couple of small finds popped up – a piece of pot with crimp marks around the base, and some antler. It’s often difficult to tell stone from bone so it all goes into the finds tray for confirmation by finds-meister, Kevin, who keeps us right as to labelling and recording what we see.

Inside the broch today. Big hearth deposits being photographed in the centre of the image

The UHI undergraduate students have been honing their ‘planning’ skills – drawing their areas to scale which is a satisfying, if back-aching process. Mairead and Lucy have enjoyed planning the whole of the top of the SW extension, which includes some revetment, Broch wall and flagstone surface.

Further down the SW extension, the team there have been removing rubbly areas to reveal indications of further extra-mural broch village structures. UHI student Cara found some voids at the end of her trowel which was the start of a reveal of a wall running north to south from structure J – one of the small village buildings – out towards the Broch outer ditch. Volunteers Anthea and Deryck also found an adjoining wall, with a lintel over a void deep enough to swallow a site director’s arm (which it did). This whole area now has several people working to expose the stonework and clear it of rubble. During this, Leiden students Maurits, Solveig and Elisabet have excavated bone fragments and slag (iron-working waste).

In this same corner, UHI student Alana has extended her area between structure J and the souterrain to expose possible corbelling and paving.
The souterrain squad aka Holly and Sara are still sampling on a grid, coming down to more rubbly soil. The souterrain was previously roofed and below where there was an opening in the roof, the squad have excavated a cache of shells.

New walls associated with Structure J emerging today.

Next door, the ‘Rubble Runners’, Connor, Mickey, Robert and Isabelle have cleared a layer of rubble to the south of the Broch entrance, uncovering copious amounts of slag, pot, bone and a worked stone as they work.
Still in area Q, but over towards the broch, Luke, Aime and Hannah are clearing back to see more of the structure underneath their feet.

Volunteers Ursula, Helen and Alan have returned this year and already have made some interesting discoveries. Today an animal skull with teeth is being revealed and has been protected until it can be further examined tomorrow.

Inside the Broch itself, Therese, Calum, Duncan, Mika, Gary have been sampling the current floor layer and cleaning back for photos and recording. Everyone is becoming very fond of their own ‘patch’ on the site, and it’s great to see how it changes as we work. The volunteers that are returning from previous years all comment on how it has changed, and we will miss it when we go, and look forward to following the blog and seeing it again next year.

Thanks to Lorna Morrison, UHI Undergraduate Student