Excavation Iron Age ORCA Outreach Swartigill

Swartigill dig diary 2021 – visiting schoolchildren see archaeologists in action

Today was the first of many visits by the local schools. The first of the season this year was the P6-7 class of Lybster Primary. The class was first shown around the site and introduced to Iron Age Swartigill Burn. Alannah Edwards reports...

Tuesday, August 31

By Alannah Edwards, UHI Archaeology Institute undergraduate student

Today was the first of many visits by the local schools. The first of the season this year was the P6-7 class of Lybster Primary. The class was first shown around the site and introduced to Iron Age Swartigill Burn.

The schoolchildren were then split into two groups.

Half were shown how to dig by Mary and Rick in the south extension of Structure C. The other half went off the explore the landscape with ranger Paul. While excavating, the area the kids competed against each other to see who could remove the most soil.

After both groups had swapped over, the class left happy, many wanting to bring their parent back to site.

UHI Archaeology Institute lecturer Martin Carruthers gives the children from Lybster Primary School some excavation tuition.

Martin Carruthers, from the UHI Archaeology Institute, was also on site for a visit. When not talking to the school class about the wonders of souterrains, Martin was walking around the site and seeing all the new areas that had been opened since his last visit in 2019. He also got stuck in and helped with the excavation.

Meanwhile, Deryck, Anthea and Islay continued excavating the south-west extension of the site. They were trying to understand the relationship of a wall and orthostat arrangement that may be related to the rest of the stonework in their trench. Nearby, newly returned MLitt student Val Ashpool worked on removing the alluvial deposits in the south extension of Structure C. No archaeology has appeared yet in this area but hopefully it will in the coming days.

Val was not the only one mattocking. In the west extension of Structure B, Alison and Rolland were making their way through more alluvial layers which cover most of the site, deposited by the repeated flooding of the burn in the past.

They found several stones which, unfortunately, did not prove to part of a structure or rubble layer. However, Alison did find a piece of 18th century glass alongside a patch of charcoal. Near the end of the day a more consistent layer of stones was found but we are still unsure as to whether these represent a more substantial feature.

UHI Archaeology Institute undergraduate Amy Blank and site assistant Calum Hall recording the deposits next to the burn section.

Amy and Calum were also trying to understand the relationships of contexts in area along the burn section. The fill of the cut for the construction of the souterrain (Structure A) contained several ashy orange layers. In these layers, they found spots of charcoal which they sampled. Charred wood can be useful for dating features.

Holly and Leia continued their work in Structure B.

Taking a short break from sampling, they were cleaning the freshly exposed surfaces. Holly worked on removing some of the larger stone rubble with the help of other volunteers while Leia cleaned up the smaller rubble, forming a shillety layer of small fragments of angular stone. Leia also cleaned around a possible square setting which may have been the socket for a pillar or post.

At the end of the day the string forming the sampling grid was removed so that all the freshly cleaned layers could be photographed tomorrow. It was a race against time for Rick to photograph the post setting, as the sun kept on coming out from behind the clouds and creating shadows – not the ideal conditions for archaeological photography.

Travis was still working on defining the area around the pot spread by removing several contexts and some rubble. He also started taking photos to create a photogrammetric 3D model of the pot in situ.

The west cell of Structure A, totally cleared of rubble.

I worked on cleaning and levelling the carbon-rich deposits that are appearing in the north-west extension during the morning, and then, in the afternoon, helped Martin remove some rubble blocking the end of the west cell in structure A.

It was a good productive day, with many happy kids. The first of several.

Visitors to the excavation site are welcome. Tours are available and archaeologists will be on site every day between August 23 and September 1. The excavation will then continue from Monday, September 6, until Wednesday, September 15.