Whenever the weather forecast is on the TV, my eyes always drift to the top of the map. This, I suppose, is natural as I live with my family in Orkney and the weather decides how we live our life that day.
The forecast for the end of this week (w/e 13th January 2017) looks interesting – a severe weather warning involving high winds and snow showers.
However, the combined power of the wind, rain and the action of the sea is also more than a way of life in Orkney, it is affecting the very existence of many heritage sites in the archipelago. It is well known that Orkney possesses amazing world-class sites, but the area has also been identified as an area that experiences some of the worst coastal erosion issues in Scotland.
Coastal erosion combined with climate change is, of course, an international issue and it is heartening to see that Historic Environment Scotland has recognised the problem as recently reported by BBC News.
In the light of the issue, the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute in partnership with staff from the University of Bradford, The City University of New York, The William Paterson University of New Jersey, Orkney Islands Council and REW Development Trust have created the Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust. The trust is aimed at providing resources for the continued work at Swandro-a priority archaeological site that is in imminent danger of destruction from coastal erosion.
Click through to the Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust website and blog for more details.
The international dig on Rousay is now beginning to uncover finds. Test pits have been opened around the 18th Century farmstead at Skaill to investigate the underlying Viking farm.
Test Pit 1: This is in effect an extended trench from last year. A double skinned wall of Norse date has been discovered together with deposits of pottery, steatite and large cod fish bones. It would appear that this wall had been dismantled and overlain by two additional phases of wall, on which the current surviving farmstead was built.
Test Pit 2: This pit unearthed the external wall and inetrnal floor of a dismantled farmhouse with a corn drying kiln. This is depicted on an old estate plan and now survives as an earthwork.
Test Pit 3: This pit exposed the top of a stony bank that is likely to be Norse in age.
Test Pit 4: This pit was located to the west of the double skinned wall of pit 1. Vitrified fuel ash, fish bone and possible structural remains emerged in this pit.
The main trenches have been left open for visitors to examine.
Norse metal fragment. Possibly copper.
2 bone buttons
Possible Norse wall at the base.
The Kids Archaeology Summer Club day last Thursday was very successful with 16 children helping with the digging, drawing,finds washing and interpretation of the artefacts.
The Kids Archaeology Summer club is continuing Thursday 14th July and Thursday 21st July. All are welcome and it is FREE to join in.
The archaeological digs on Rousay are progressing apace now that the Orkney summer has arrived in earnest. Local people have taken the opportunity to work on the sites and there are still places available for anyone who wants to experience a hands on archaeological dig.
The first day at the farmstead began with excavating the pit from last year down to the Viking wall that had previously been uncovered. Once the wall was reached, the trench was stepped out in order to uncover more of the wall. In addition to this, we began to use geophysics to uncover more of the structures shown on the survey. The first of the pits has been dug adjacent to the corn drying kiln. This revealed a wall face and an orthosats possibly used for dividing the interior of the building. Further test pits were planned for later in the week to explore the other features shown on the geophysics.
During the second day, samples were taken of the soil in the trench near the farmstead. The second trench was mapped and left open for the public to view. Test pit three was started and will be continued by our yound volunteers on Thursday. The best finds of the day were two bone buttons in excellent condition. Other deposits of bone and pottery were also uncovered. Hopefully the rest of the Viking wall will be uncovered over the next few days.
The first day began with cleaning the storm beach back and strimming the grass back. During day 2, further clearing back was undertaken, the tarpaulins from last year’s dig was removed. The international team has now started to excavate the site and we are all looking forward to gain more insight into this heavily eroding site.
There are still places available over the next month to take part in these digs. There is no charge and you will receive training in basic archaeology techniques. There is a Kid’s Archaeology Club running too. See the poster below…..
Investigations at Westness, Rousay start this week
Lots of opportunities to get involved, from workshops, kids summer club, volunteering on site and placement training.
Two Excavations along the Westness shore start this week: at the coastally eroding site at Swandro and Viking Farmstead at Skaill, Westness, Rousay, start next week. Combined, these aim to investigate the deep history of this fascinating stretch of coast.
Swandro excavations: 4-29 July – Local volunteer opportunities. Two 2 week placements for local residents available for mid to late July. Help us excavate this Neolithic to Viking aged site that is being eroded by the sea. Project details and reports here.
Skaill farmstead excavations: 4-8th July – Local volunteers welcome. Help us excavate some test trenches to investiagte the Viking farmstead below the current ruined farm buildings.
Contact Sean Page for details 01856 569229 email@example.com
Archaeology on Rousay was in the limelight last week as the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute welcomed delegates to Orkney for the LANDMARKS workshop. Led by Mark Edmonds (University of York), Ingrid Mainland (UHI) and Dave Cowley (Historic Environment, Scotland), the workshop brought together some of the leading figures in landscape research from around the world for four days of lectures and field visits to west Mainland and Rousay.
The aim of the meeting was to exchange ideas about the practice of landscape survey, to review new technologies and to explore how patterns seen from the air and on the ground are interpreted. Papers on research from the Northern Isles were given alongside presentations on work in England, on the Continent, in Ireland, Greenland, Iceland and east Africa. Taking in everything from scatters of Palaeolithic stone tools to memory maps of Stromness, the workshop addressed basic questions of scale. Archaeologists spend much of their time studying sites. But people live across landscapes as a whole, reworking them over time, and the meeting brought home the importance of work, on land and at sea, that keeps those broader horizons in mind.
With presentations on airborne laser survey and underwater bathymetry, on field-walking, oral history and community involvement, the meeting tackled many issues of analysis and interpretation. The organisers said they were delighted with the papers and with the in-depth conversations that carried people around West Mainland and Rousay. Speaking at the close of the event, Mark Edmonds added that, “This was a great opportunity to talk about how best to investigate and understand the landscape around us and we all learnt a great deal over the four days. We were also very pleased that our grant from the Royal Society of Edinburgh allowed us to invite several students from the UHI and from other Scottish universities.”