Dig diary Friday 27th July: cists and side cells?

Thankfully the forecast thunder storms never appeared today so it was full steam ahead with just a week to go. We now have a possible Bronze Age cist, unfortunately empty but near which was found the piece of probable Bronze Age steatite funerary urn, which adds at least a bit of circumstantial evidence to the cist theory:


I did forget to get a scale to put in the photograph so it's a bit difficult to see, but here it is being demonstrated by an interested digger, as you can see plenty of room to fit a crouched burial in there, not to mention a cremation burial:



The bit to the right in the photo above - that's swallowing the Jay's head - appears to be a side cell to our chambered tomb that's been somewhat rudely disturbed by the addition of the cist. The original contents of both the cist & the upper level of the possible side chamber are long gone, but the upper fills of the chamber included a cat skull, which means Iron Age at least. It's nicely corbelled though, but we're not down to the bottom levels yet:



Cat bones seem to be a recurring theme at Swandro - we've had Viking cats from the upper levels in previous seasons - sadly (from a cat lover's viewpoint at least) with cut marks on the bone indicating they were skinned, presumably for fur. We've had several more lots of cat bone this year, but these have not yet been analysed to determine if they are pampered pets or simply a source of fur.

Next week the backfilling starts - we come to the end of our six week season, about two and a half weeks of which are spent opening up and closing up the site, since we have to take out & put back about 30 tonnes of stone to protect the site over the winter. We would really love to dig for at least 8 weeks next year but that's all depending on securing funding for another years work. We don't have too much time before the site is washed away by the sea!


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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