Archaeology The Cairns Dig Diary 2019

The Cairns Day 12 – 2019

In the foreground, the rubble in-filling Structure O outside the broch

We are pleased to welcome international students from around the world at The Cairns and today it is the turn of Mickey Van Lit from Leiden University to walk us through the day at The Cairns……

Mooing cows and squeaking wheelbarrows shape our background music. The scrape of trowels against stones is like a war drum, urging us on to keep working. Hoodies are taken off. Five minutes later, hoodies are put back on. Rain nor wind nor sun can stop us from doing what we do. But what exactly are we doing?

The village buildings to the north of Structure O

At first glance, the area I have been working on – and am still working on – might seem a bit boring. There is a whole lot of rubble, and even more dirt. Yet, with a bit of singing, talking and the occasional ray of sun, it is quite a nice area to work on.

It is located right at the entrance of the broch, with only the souterrain between the broch and ‘my’ patch. On the right, there is a wall that seems to dive underneath our area. When we started two weeks ago, the area looked quite different than it looks now. Near to no stones were visible. Along with four others, I have been trowelling the dirt away to try and uncover the rubble. Underneath this rubble are the remains of at least one wall, but hopefully more.

A pottery rim, one of many pieces coming from the site at the moment

When trowelling, we quickly learned to squat while trowelling, as the rocks dug into our knees whenever we would kneel. During the second week, voids started to appear. According to Bobby, we should be happy with these voids, as they signalled that we were getting close to the big rubble. Unfortunately, the voids meant that there were no stable rocks to stand on, as everything was wobbly or crumbling. It was quite like playing Twister. But Bobby was right (of course) and we soon got down to the bigger rocks that we were hoping to find.

Closer to the trench edge, the soil was trampled by us, and we could not get through with our trowels. We got out the big tools: mattocks. Within a day, we had cracked down upon the bigger rubble there as well. In fact, the first rock we found was massive, and it took us a while to find the end of it. Finally, after two weeks and one day, we were able to take the obligatory pictures. While I am writing this blog, my co-workers of this area are removing the rubble on top. When that has been done, we will find the rest of the wall that ducked beneath our area.

Vivid floor deposits in the southeast room of the broch and the dark stony area of the hearth in the background

Even though the work appeared to be a bit monotonous, we had a lot of fun. My team had a tendency to sing, if only two lines before we switched to a new topic of conversation. The conversations consisted mostly of nonsensical facts and awful jokes – you know, the interesting kind of conversations. Every once in a while, Holly would pop up from the souterrain to make a comment, which of course only added to the fun. We have gotten quite good at multitasking: talk and dig, people, talk and dig.

Todays blogger Mickey writing the blog in the site office

To end this blog on a (slightly) more serious note, it has to be said that this site is brilliant, and the people just as much. No matter the weather or the hard work, everyone is enthusiastic and interested in what we are doing. Therefore, I propose a round of applause for everyone that has been working here. Looks great, keep going, guys!

The mooing cows in the field next to The Cairns

Thanks to Mickey Van Lit, Leiden University Archaeology Student

1 comment

  1. Not just a broch, but a village too.
    My eldest sister never understood my liking for stone circles – I quote “But Bernie, they’re just a load of old stones.” Then, she visited Grange Stone Circle in County Limerick in Ireland and…she was converted. I know – stone circles tend to date from the Neolithic – but you could say that a broch, is a stone circle of a kind. I just likes circles.
    If anyone thinks a site like The Cairns, or the Ness, or Swandro ( my heart bleeds, for Swandro), is just “a load of old stones”, maybe they need to actually go there, and see, and take it all in. A load of old stones, slowly take shape and tell of lives lived.
    I probably don’t need to say it here, but …open day at The Cairns is on Friday 5th of July ………..go along… might change your view.

Comments are closed.