Dig diary 4th July - any tips on getting grit out of your ears?

Breezy day combined with a fortnight of dry weather means that today has been particularly dusty - not a problem you usually have on a dig in Orkney - my ears for one are so full of grit I can hardly hear, and I came off site looking like our fluffy half grown cat does when she's rolled repeatedly in the ash heap (don't ask!). The big advantage to this was that although the boat back from Rousay was full to bursting point no-one would sit next to me so I had plenty of room to spread out (your humble diarist commutes to the dig from the Mainland, a pleasant ride on the early boat but a bit hot & sweaty on the last boat back - still the view is worth it when you do make it down).


Looking down to Swandro from the hill above, with Eynhallow and the Atlantic behind

Another interesting problem of a breezy day on an exposed site, is how do you keep your EDM (electronic distance measurer - used for 3-D recording finds etc ) safely in place on top of the tomb mound? Not a problem for Team Swandro's surveyors - one thing we do have in abundance ids big flat rocks, just the thing for tripod stability:


Tripod weighted down with stones against the brisk Rousay breeze

Grit in the eyes is another big problem, so much so that some of the team had to resort to wearing safety goggles whilst trowelling, which is not something you often see, especially when one of them is 'the Time Team's Bones Lady' Jackie McKinley:

Jackie & Vicky forced to resort to goggles whilst trowelling

And just in case you think we encourage our diggers to sit around watching people work, let me tell you that Bethany recently broke her back falling off a mountain, and although well on the road to recovery obviously can't manage heavy labour, but didn't want to miss out on the chance to come to Swandro. She's doing a fine job as a surveyor, and we're really glad she managed to recover enough to join the team this year. Next year we'll make her work twice as hard to make up for it (only joking Beth!).

We are starting to get on to the archaeology, after seven days of backbreaking labour removing the tonnes of rock we backfilled the site with to protect it over the winter, and structural stonework is starting to show though:


Looking towards the entrance of the chambered tomb from inside the body of the tomb

As with all sites in Orkney, nothing's ever simple - in the foreground of the pic above you may be able to make out a small circular structure, set into the top of the tomb mound. This later building is looking very similar to Structure 1, which we uncovered on the beach in a previous season and which turned out to be Iron Age (see our more info page for free downloads of site reports). This is not unexpected on a multi-period site like Swandro - later inhabitants could hardly be expected to ignore such a convenient source of decent building stone.

Clearing continued elsewhere, with some structural stonework being reached in the section through the tomb:


Interesting stonework revealed in the section

If you're wondering what the road cones are for in this pic they're our safety barriers - we put a road iron in a road cone & set them around the site with rope through - we can't bang road irons into the ground as the site is scheduled, but we need a barrier to keep the visiting public safe, and this is the perfect solution. I do wonder what the very helpful folk in the MacGregors Industrial Supplies thought when we bought 20 road cones for a dig on the shore in Rousay though!

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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