A tiny sliver found during soil-sample processing has brought the number of ancient glass fragments from the interior of The Cairns broch to nine.
However, unlike most of the eleven examples of glass recovered across the South Ronaldsay site, this dark-green shard does not appear to be a bead fragment but may instead have come from Roman glassware.
Roman artefacts are known in Orkney. Historically, these have tended to be explained away as the result of Orkney trading with people with Roman contacts rather than a direct contact with the Roman world.
The site director of The Cairns excavation is University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute lecturer Martin Carruthers.
He explained: “It’s impossible to know if our shard represents a down-the-line exchange, or direct access and interaction with the Roman world. The types of Roman material in Atlantic Scottish Iron Age sites, however, seems to suggest that there’s a definite appetite for the higher status Roman trappings such as jewellery, Samian ware and glass vessels.
“To me this suggests they’re not just taking whatever they can get their hands on but have agency enough to source the goods and objects they want.”