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Dig Diary Friday 14th July of tuyères and trenches

Updated: Apr 19, 2018

Appropriately enough, since this is the 14th of July, la Fête Nationale française, we bring you news of a French find at Swandro....a tuyère! OK, only the word is French, imported into the English language along with the technology of blast furnaces in the early 16th century - it’s the nozzle that air enters the blast furnace through, in our case from a bellows.Anyway our tuyère’s got our archaeo-metallurgist Gerry very excited – here he is demonstrating how the tuyère fits into the bellows with our finds co-ordinator Rose:

Swandro's archaeometallurgist with a Pictish tuyère
Our archaeometallurgist complete with a Pictish tuyère

Our tuyère is Pictish - the Pictish period in Orkney being the bit after they got all fed up of living in brochs about AD 200-300, but before the Vikings arrived somewhere around about AD800 and chopped them all into bloody collops.

It’s made of fired clay, and they’re pretty rare in prehistoric Orkney, which makes our find all the more important -here it is in close up:

Pictish tuyère at Swandro, Orkney

It was found in Structure 3, which, in defiance of all archaeological tradition, I’m hereby renaming the Pictish Smithy. What is it with archaeologists & structure numbers? How boring can you get ... I can never remember the one or the other. So to recap our tuyère came from the Pictish smithy, and we’re getting a load of good evidence of metalworking – hammmerscale and crucible fragments – from the floor of the building:

As you can see the smithy’s not very big, metalworking hearths were pretty small at this period, less than a metre square, and crucibles are about the size of a an expresso cup- iron is still a pretty high-status item even in the Pictish period. It’d be nice and warm inside the smithy though – traditionally in Orkney the smithy was where the men of the district gathered for a yarn and some homebrew at the end of the day – I don’t suppose it was any different 1,600 years ago!


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