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Why we need your help

This amazing photograph by Robert Friel shows the eroding chambered tomb at the Knowe of Swandro to the right & the Pictish & Iron Age structures to the left

We’ve been running the dig on a shoestring so far with the aid of small grants of no more than a few thousand pounds each from local charities and the OIC archaeology fund, and some sponsorship from local businesses and individuals. Whilst we are very grateful for the help we have had so far, this has only allowed us to dig for a 4 week season each year. About a week and a half of the 4 weeks is taken uncovering the site and then covering it back up again, giving us only 2 and a half weeks of real digging time. If we had the funds we could extend the digging season, which would make a huge difference. For example if we had enough money to extend the dig season to 8 weeks, this would in effect nearly triple the time we could spend digging - it takes no longer to uncover or re-cover the site for a longer season.


We need longer dig seasons in the next few year to give us any chance at all of making a realistic impression on the site before it’s lost completely, and to do that we need money. We hope that bodies that have supported us in the past will continue to do so, but our target for 2018 is to raise enough money to pay for an extended season and also most importantly to help pay for some of the post-excavation work that being in the field for longer will generate.


Grant funding from bodies such as LEADER and the Heritage Lottery Fund is in increasingly short supply,  and part of the application process for many grants involves demonstrating both public support and also providing match funding from our own funds. As we are a new charity (established in November 2016) we do not have a pot of money that we can use to provide match funding, therefore some avenues of grant aid are closed to us.  If we can raise extra funding ourselves, this means we can apply to grant giving bodies for the same amount again, doubling the available funding.  


Excavation and particularly post-excavation, conservation of finds and publication of results is an expensive business, even with team members donating their time for free.


The logistics of digging in a small island mean that we have a lot of extra costs just getting to site to start digging. We have to pay ferry fares and travelling expenses for the team and equipment to get from Mainland Scotland to Orkney, then an extra lot of ferry fares to get to Rousay. We then have accommodation costs in Rousay itself, and any equipment we need has to come over on the boat. Post-excavation costs soon mount up too - for example radiocarbon dates cost  £378 each including the VAT; all finds have to be carefully conserved and studied; environmental samples processed and researched etc. etc.


One major financial headache has already been taken care of, since we have  plans in place in relation to the analysis and preparation of the publication report for the anticipated human remains from the chambered tomb. Whilst in advance of excavation is not possible to quantify the number of burials that may be encountered, other Neolithic tombs in Orkney have produced from around 25 – 100 individuals.  Specialist cleaning and conservation, analysis and reporting and publication to the highest modern standards on such an assemblage, if charged at current commercial rates, might be expected to cost in the region of  £15,000 - £60,000. However our osteoarchaeologist will undertake this analysis, from initial conservation through to publication,  without charge on a voluntary basis, with materials necessary to this work sponsored by local business Orkney Archaeology Tours. This represents a substantial saving to the Trust.  


We hope that having read this far you may feel able to make a small contribution towards our fundraising target by  visiting our donation page