Dig diary 12th July - a fond farewell to Jackie McKinley

Today was the last day on site for Jackie McKinley aka 'the Time Team's bones lady' who's been here for a fortnight on a busman's holiday from Wessex Archaeology, where's she's their principal osteoarchaeologist. Here she is working away in this section between the chambered tomb wall on the left, another later building on the right and standing over yet another later building with yet another stretch of later walling in front of her - walls everywhere!

Jackie McKinley from an unusual angle

We don't want her to go and we've been trying to persuade her to call in sick, which would make it a bit difficult to post any site photos online - we'd have to get her to hide every time we took a pic. Or maybe we could disguise her - false beard & moustache would work surely?

She is still here on Saturday for our special event and will be in the Rousay school hall talking about human bones, before boarding her plane on Sunday to leave us for another year. We hope she can come back next year too - and maybe bring some of her Wessex colleagues with her?

Elsewhere on site we've had some interesting stone finds come up (yes, stone can be interesting too - it's not all exciting metallurgy and bone combs). A piece of rotary quern - like two miniature millstones turned by hand, and Iron Age invention that must've speeded up grain processing considerably - came up from a building overlying our tomb, and when washed you could see the scratch marks caused by it being turned round and round and round to grind the day's barley:


Part of a rotary quern broken across the hole in the middle

Here's a replica rotary quern in use at site by one of our visitors, in the foreground is a saddle quern, which was the earlier form of grain grinding and a lot harder, needing more skill and effort to grind the grain:

Rotary and saddle querns

We're also losing another of our volunteers Maggie, who's been up for the week from Perth & Kinross. She celebrated her last day on site with our star find, this double bored stone:


Maggie showing off her double bored stone

Just to prove it's double bored, here's the other side:


You do wonder why it's bored on both sides - pivot stones (as found in our Pictish smithy and pictured in yesterday's dig diary) are usually only bored out on the one side. Oil lamps - with a rush wick - are another possibility but why two on one stone? You could hardly use them both at once. Anyway it's a great find and we've been very glad to have Maggie's help this week.

Have also (finally) managed to persuade my pathetically slow internet connection to upload a clip to youtube of Gerry McDonnell explaining the significance of the Pictish smithy. All highly exciting - now all we need is some money to radiocarbon date it all.


Now, much rush off, as they-who-must-be-obeyed aka Steve & Julie the dig directors are giving their Swandro lecture tonight - King Street Halls in Kirkwall at 7.30pm and I need to scrape the day's digging dirt off before heading out.

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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