Dig diary 9th July: Tuyères and Tombs

Our Pictish Smithy is being carefully cleaned up ready for the imminent arrival of Dr Gerry McDonnell our archaeometallurgist, complete with his portable XRF machine & his collection of spheroidal slag, and it's already producing lots of lovely goodies, such as this lovely little tuyère, seen from both sides:


Side 1 of the tuyère

The vitrified side of the tuyère

Tuyères are the nozzles through which the bellows force air into the furnace and we've had several examples from our smithy, and there's no doubt lots more to come. It being a drizzly cool sort of day it was safe to have the floor areas open to clean as they weren't in danger of drying out to rock-like consistency:


Floor of the smithy looking good

Elsewhere on site work on the chambered tomb continues apace, with the area above the entrance under excavation. There's some interesting blocking stones which will hopefully make more sense when we're down onto them, they're just under the rubble where the two mattockers are in this shot:

Deposits above the chamber of the tomb being excavated, looking down the passageway

And this is the rubble and walling looking roughly west, at right angles to the passageway:


Blocking to the right, looking down into the tomb entrance

Not sure what that orthostat is doing - is it part of the tomb itself, or of a later structure? There's lots of variants on chambered tomb design in Orkney - although we generalise that the main types are Maeshowe type - an big central chamber with side chambers off that - and Orkney-Cromarty types (also known as stalled cairns) with a long chamber subdivided buy orthostats - there are also lots of variants and hybrids. If you want to know more get a hold of a copy of Davidson & Henshall's 'The Chambered Cairns of Orkney' - all the detail you need.

Finally we have the mystery of the missing doughnuts aka the great Rousay doughnut heist - we were called from the boat to say that there were doughnuts on board for us just in time for afternoon tea break & everyone perked up considerably - well I did as I was as usual starving hungry with dinner a distant memory and tea a long way off - & a van was duly dispatched to bring said doughnuts to site. But disaster struck - van returned doughnutless with a confused story that the doughnuts had been put in another van and whisked away for safekeeping, and the local cafe proprietress was also on the pier looking for a missing order of 20 doughnuts.... not sure if the rightful ownership of the doughnuts was established as I had get the boat back home to the Mainland before they showed up. I bet they're all eating them now with not a thought about their humble dig diarist who is sorely in need of a sugar fix .. and I bet they were custard doughnuts which is just about the best doughnut in the world if you ask me. I'm off to sulk now.

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Swandro - Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust 

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