Small SwandroOrkney logo rgb 2nd-ver-5-8-17penny-logo

Swandro Dig Diary: Racing Against Time and Tide

By Team Swandro, Dec 4 2017 03:41PM

Didn't you always hate the thought of going back to school after the summer holidays because you knew that the first thing you'd have to do when you got back was write an essay on 'What I did in my summer holidays'? Now of course I realise that the teachers hated being back at school as much as we did & set us the standard essay to keep us quiet for a bit – anyway here's the Swandro version of that essay – enjoy!


Chambered tomb


The chambered tomb at Swandro is suffering badly from ongoing coastal erosion, with more and more of the tomb walls on the seaward side disappearing every year. This year we concentrated on the entrance passageway, located at the top of the storm beach, the upper levels of which had been disturbed probably in the Viking period, since a coin of EANRED, King of Northumbria 810-840 AD, were found there in a previous season, along with the bones of several cats (cats are an Iron Age introduction to Orkney, so can't relate to the Neolithic use of the tomb).


Work this year showed that there's another building, not part of the chambered tomb, built up against its entrance. This may possibly be a souterrain (or earthhouse as they're known in Orkney - confusingly, neither a house nor built of earth), an underground building that everyone assumes is ritual/religious. They turn up surprisingly often inserted into chambered tombs, and most of the excavated examples are Iron Age. It may however also be another type of Iron Age building - for example the chambered tomb at Quanterness, just outside Kirkwall, had an Iron Age roundhouse built across its entrance in a similar way.



By Team Swandro, Jul 4 2017 08:58PM



First off - Happy 4th of July to all our American diggers – I’d like to say we gave them all the day off with lots of cake and hot dogs, but I’d be lying: we sent them down to the storm beach at Swandro and made them all slave away in the boiling hot sun all day, shifting tons & tons of stone. It’s the thought that counts though!


It has been a gloriously hot day, the kind of Orkney summer day that makes you forget all about the Atlantic gales that come hammering in with unfailing regularity, and the enthusiastic team has been making good progress in uncovering the site.



Work has also concentrated on uncovering the protective membrane over the edge of the chambered tomb and the passage way: unfortunately as we started to uncover this we’ve made a sad discovery



By Team Swandro, Jul 3 2017 07:51PM

Our first day back on site started out a little breezy with occasional sudden downpours, then ended hot and sunny. In other words typical Orkney weather which is usually described as four seasons in a day: you can start the day in full waterproofs, woolly hat and gloves and end the day getting sunburnt.

This is the first taste of archaeology for many of our American and Bradford students, and they couldn’t have a better place to do it than in Orkney!


RSS Feed

Web feed