Excavation Iron Age Swartigill

Swartigill dig diary 2021 – sunshine, site tours and brilliant archaeology

As we move through the penultimate week of this year's dig, the excavations at Swartigill are moving along at a good pace.

Wednesday, September 8

By Amy Blank (UHI Archaeological Sciences Undergrad)

Site supervisor Holly details the latest thinking on Structure B at the Burn of Swartigill.

Another beautiful warm and sunny day at the Burn of Swartigill site. Even an ice-cream break didn’t slow down the progress.

As we move through the penultimate week of this year’s dig, the excavations at Swartigill are moving along at a good pace. Much consolidation was under way today across the site and we had another school visit. Pupils from Thrumster Primary school came to be archaeologists for a day. They had a go at excavating and planning and were taken on a tour of the site by Rick, Rhona and Mary.

Pottery rim sherd from the north of Structure A.

Calum and Amy aimed to further define the fill of the construction cut for the north wall of Structure A. This involved much cleaning to rationalise the phasing of the building.

Next to Calum and Amy, Travis explored the area to the north of Structure A, near to where a cist had been situated, and found a layer which is likely to represent the natural ground surface over which the site was built. Travis is investigating rich deposits in this area, and has found much pottery and charcoal.

In Structure B, Holly, Leia and Sara proceeded with their cleaning and removing a layer of rubble bringing all the deposits into phase. Meanwhile, Alison, Rhona and Robert were working on revealing the extent of Structure C and remove the alluvial deposits to expose a layer of peat and organic material, probably part of the vegetation that formed after the site was abandoned.

Francesca was busy removing rubble in the north-west extension of Structure A, searching for traces of ash rich soil seen nearby in an area excavated in 2019. She found some quartz and charcoal and began to learn site photography.

Gianluca also tried his hand at recording find locations using the GPS and continued to excavate in the north-west section of Structure A, where he was also finding traces of that charcoal-rich deposit, including some possible residues from iron-working in the lower level of the sondage (a small but deep exploratory trench).

Anthea and Deryck were clearing away lots of rubble and deposits of degraded stone revealing ashy layers and organic material in the area we have tentatively designated as Structure D. We will be looking into this area in more detail in the coming days.

Alongside Anthea and Deryck, Roland continued his investigation of the western extension trying to rationalise a rough but substantial line of stones, probably associated with later reuse of the site.

The excavation team stop of an ice-cream break.

As the day drew to a close, the heat intensified to be relieved by Islay arriving with ice-cream for us all. Site supervisor, Holly Young and site assistant Calum, then gave us a tour around the site where we discussed our respective areas and plans for the coming days.

Site assistant Calum discusses the area to the north of Structure B – between the “souterrain” and the burn.

Visitors to the excavation site are welcome. Tours are available and archaeologists will be on site every day until Wednesday, September 15.