Logo of the Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust make donation copy

2014 Excavation

Work at the Knowe of Swandro resumed between the 16th of June and the 26th of July 2014 with a team from the University of Bradford, Orkney College (UHI), William Paterson University and City University New York cleaned, recorded and sampled the site. Investigation in 2014 has demonstrated a Pictish phase, indicated by cellular structures built within the infilled remains of more substantial Iron Age structures which themselves show there is a continuation of the site on the foreshore and under the boulder beach. The truncated remains of the Norse Hall clearly overlie this Pictish/Late Iron Age settlement.


Excavation at Swandro in 2014 also clearly indicated that the top of the mound forming the Neolithic Chambered Cairn had been partially robbed of stone in the Iron Age and infilled with Late Iron Age (Pictish) midden.


On the seaward area of the beach under the boulders the truncated building (Structure 1) was further investigated. Midden was found to continue to seaward but is clearly being affected by tidal action; deposits of midden located by coring in the intertidal zone in 2011 have now disappeared.


Work on the beach in 2014 concentrated on the excavation of the later Iron Age (Pictish) elements of the site. Excavation revealed a complexity of structural development with building forms found to be nested in earlier, larger structures.  The sea had partially destroyed both sets of buildings. The truncations were cleaned as sections, sampled and recorded.  The part-excavation of one of these later truncated buildings (Structure 2) in 2014 saw the sampling of floor surfaces down to the primary flag floor. The excavation and sampling of the infill of a third building form revealed the presence of slag and crucible material suggesting copper alloy working. A broken flagstone within a floor surface of one structure proved to be a capstone to a well. The well was accessed by steps and corbelled on three sides, with clay bonding present in the lower part; it is still filled by a freshwater spring.

Aerial photo showing the Iron Age spring fed corbelled well to the left, with further associated structures at the Knowe of Swandro, Rousay

Aerial photo showing the Iron Age spring fed corbelled well to the left, with further associated structures

We have more information on the excavation including downloads of some of our preliminary reports. You can also read more on our dig diary pages


For more general Orkney background information please visit our page on 'Orkney's Archaeology'

These links will take you to a summary of each year's Knowe of Swandro excavation results



2010 DIG          2011 DIG         2012 DIG          2013 DIG          2014 DIG        



2015 DIG        2016 DIG          2017 DIG