Archaeomagnetic dating and steatite - what more could you want?


Another busy day on site with the arrival of Dr Cathy Batt, an archaeomagnetic dating specialist

from the University of Bradford, to carefully sample some of our hearths and hopefully get us some dates to compliment our radiocarbon dating programme. That's her son Jonathan helping out - he's obviously carefully chosen his jacket colour to match the colour of the hearth:

He's very sensibly not going to be an archaeologist but an engineer - a respectable profession with good prospects and a lot better pay and conditions than archaeology!

Our star find today was this piece of steatite, aka soapstone from Shetland, which started life as part of a little pot (well, not pot exactly as it's steatite not pot but you know what I mean) but was then broken and the broken bit smoothed and drilled and turned into a pendant. Julie did point out that sometimes a broken steatite pot was drilled to be mended but this makes such a lovely pendant that I'd rather it was that.

Anyway Jake who found it was really pleased with his find and quite right too:


Klaudia was back in her cell and the walling is looking really good, it's a re-skinning of the secondary wall of the Iron Age roundhouse, when they seem to have taken the chance to put an extra alcove in:

It's been absolutely full of animal bone, but quite strange bones - lots and lots of bird bone, and also lots of cat bone - tempted to say someone put the cat among the pigeons but that would be a really bad pun so I won't. There was this one big piece of antler among all the smaller bones though:

Speaking of antler here's a close up of the antler handle from yesterday with its two well-drilled rivet holes:

The other handle found yesterday is of bone, and is a broken piece of composite comb, but still does have one of the bone pegs which held everything together still in place:

Both of these finds came from the Iron Age roundhouse, which is getting more interesting by the day. The cell below has a really cool bit of walling - if you look closely you'll see that the big horizontal slab at the right has been carefully shaped to go round the section of walling at the left, and the slab below is shaped to fit the little piece of walling on its right:

It looks like this section of walling, which just sits against the roundhouse wall ( or rather against the re-skinned roundhouse wall, so the secondary building) was put in to hold up a section of corbelling which hasn't survived.


Finally, a photo of Bonnie, our laser scanning and 3-D recording specialist, and Lindsey, our photogrammetry wizard and UAV pilot, as an apology - they said they never get to feature in the dig diary at all and they ought to be featured as it's Yorkshire day and they're from Yorkshire (although Bonnie's family is Scottish and she dances a mean Highland fling):

Didn't know that Yorkshire had a day - wonder how they celebrate it? I expect it involves a lot of liquid refreshment, and on that note, since we've a day off tomorrow, I think a cold beer is in order!

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Swandro - Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust 

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation No: SC047002 

Patron: His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay

Registered office: Bayview Birsay Orkney KW17 2LR   email: info@swandro.co.uk