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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, Aug 19 2017 05:42PM

Since we’re not digging at the moment I thought this might be a good time to catch you all up on some of the background to the dig, so that when we come back (hopefully – subject to funding) next July you’ll all be up to speed and ready to dive right in to the regular dig diary.


If we were still on site we wouldn’t be digging today anyway as it’s a Saturday, so if it helps you can pretend we’re still digging but this is our day off – puts me in mind of seeing a Motörhead gig many years ago when they’d just had The Bomber stolen - the inimitable Lemmy announced that even if the Bomber hadn’t been stolen they wouldn’t have been able to get it in as the hall as was too small, so we should just imagine that it was parked up on the lorry outside:



You may need to work with me on this one!


Anyway back to the archaeology – as regular readers will know one of the most threatened parts of the site is our Neolithic chambered tomb


By Team Swandro, Jul 25 2017 07:18PM

Firstly apologies for the absence of a dig diary yesterday: we had lots of Open Day pictures ready to go but we had no internet connection. This is a bit of an occupational hazard here – Orkney has the dubious distinction of being top of the list of places in Scotland with the slowest internet connection (Shetland came second), and when you’re a long way from the telephone exchange like we are, the problems can be worse. We’ve got a very patchy connection tonight so I’m writing this fast before it goes down again.

We had a great Open Day and thank you so much to everyone who came out to visit us –the 10.45am boat from Tingwall on Sunday was full, and most of them were coming over to visit us and a lot of folk from Rousay too – we had about 180 folk down to see us.



It was a great day for it too, dry & warm and the site looked great

By Team Swandro, Jul 21 2017 08:32PM

Another glorious sunny day if a bit breezy, but today was a big day for two of our Swandro stars Rose and Bonnie, who had to leave early to get to their graduation – first class honours for both of them, and don’t they scrub up well!



Congratulations guys – but don’t go wearing those shoes on site now!

Getting back to the archaeology


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