The end of the first week at Skaill saw the trenches reopened and new excavations started, focusing on the range of buildings below the surviving 19th century farm – the earliest phases of which could be late medieval.
One of the main aims this season is to establish the relationship between the dated Norse middens in Trench Twenty-Two and the earliest phase of the buildings in Trench Nineteen, along with excavating the internal floors.
MSc student Logan O’Brien takes up the story …
Blazing sun and horse flies marked the first day of the excavation session and Skaill Farm on Monday, July 10.
The foul weather gear – the usual uniform – was cast off in favour of the minimal layers to keep away the flies, as the team formed a human chain to pass rocks up out of the trenches. The heavy plastic sheeting followed, laying bare the previously excavated early modern structures of Trench Nineteen.
Trench Twenty-Two was re-opened and soon extended to meet the buildings in the neighbouring Trench Nineteen. The sounds of rock moving gave way to trowels scraping across stonework as the floors of Rooms One and Two were cleaned and the hearth was removed from the kiln to better understand how the structure had changed over time.
Unfortunately, the good weather didn’t last past the first day, but the rain helped loosen the topsoil.
By the end of the second day, a new test pit had been started to the north-east of the main trenches and the top of a new wall had been uncovered between Trenches Nineteen and Twenty-Two – the anticipated eastern wall of the early building phase.
The second most northerly room in the upstanding farmhouse was cleared of rubble and excavated down to the stone floor surface, which was cleaned and photographed.
Rubble was removed from the northern end of Trench Nineteen and within a section external to the buildings, sherds of courseware pottery were found in the dark silt between the stones as the context was cleared down to the next surface.
The week ended with the planning of the floors in the farmhouse and the newly exposed part of Room One and the removal of the floor around the hearth.
After a week of hard work, interspersed with some exciting finds – fragments of bone combs, bone buttons, medieval pottery and a polishing stone – the site was cleared up for the weekend with a final day of bright sun and light breeze.
Despite the variable weather, the first week was really productive.
Work continues at the site this week with the open day taking place this Saturday, July 22.
Come and visit to see Living History pirates who will be trying to take over the farm!