Happy New Year from all at Team Swandro! We're hoping 2022 will see us back on site, having sadly lost our last two seasons due to you-know-what. All being well, there should be boots on the ground in Rousay in mid-June through to early August. Everyone's keen to get back on site, especially to see what damage has been done during the last three years - hard to believe it's been that long.
We've managed to keep some of the post excavation work going, with pottery being carefully cleaned for photography & illustration, there's quite a contrast from the 'as found' to the fully cleaned, some of the Iron Age pottery is particularly nicely decorated:
Thinking of finds prompted me to have a look back over some of our more memorable ones from previous seasons and I've been trying to decide which ones are my favourites, here's a selection for your delectation and delight (with links to their original dig diary entries for more info). I think pretty high on the list is the seal's tooth pendant from our 2019 season:
One of the good things about the post-excavation work is that you do get to see the pretty finds in all their glory, rather than in their muddy original state. Back in the day we used to rub mucky finds clean on our jeans for a better look, but that is frowned upon by the finds supervisors these days (who also frown upon snapping bits of pot to see if it's pot or stone, which we also used to do - showing my age now!) so you have to wait for the post-ex. This very fine decorated bone from our 2019 season does show up so much better when carefully cleaned:
One of our more unusual (and rare) finds came from our 2018 season, a probable Pictish painted pebble, part of which looks suspiciously like a dog's head in profile, or maybe that's just me:
Of course you'll probably remember the most unexpected and star find of our 2018 season, and the one that generated the most publicity, the stone anvil from the smithy, complete with the smith's greasy handprints. That one we definitely didn't see coming, and it made it worth all the effort it took to get it off site, using the old 'tip it into a wheelbarrow then lift the whole barrow' trick:
It wasn't until it was cleaned up prior to recording that we realised that there was more to it than a huge lump of rock that we'd nearly killed ourselves moving:
It looks good in its cleaned up photo, but that pic wasn't easy to take - ideally for on-site photography you need a bright but overcast day, sunlight is no good at all due to the shadows. Luckily we had our Viking re-enactors on site complete with banner, which came in very handy:
One of my favourite finds comes from the 2015 season, and at first glance doesn't look all that special, but is one of the earliest finds so far, a roughout of either a bead or a pendant made of a jet-like material and either Neolithic or possibly Chalcolithic or Bronze Age. The photo (courtesy of Dr Alison Sheridan) shows the break across the drill hole quite clearly:
Expect there was a fair amount of prehistoric profanity when it broke!
We do pretty well in bead and/or pendants at Swandro, and here's a tiny Viking example in glass from the other end of the timescale:
Looking back to our 2017 season, one of the more unusual finds was a Roman coin, identified as a 4th century Nummus of the Emperor Constans:
The Romans didn't get to Orkney (although they did sail round the top of Britain and knew that we were here) but you do get high-status Roman finds here, such as Roman glass, jewellery and amphora, likely to have been traded. Sure enough our 2019 season turned up a piece of a Roman prismatic bottle, of a type used for wine, olive oil or defrutum (perfect for making a dipping sauce mixed with fermented fish apparently)
And finally for our run through of interesting bits and pieces, our mystery antler 'bobbin' from 2019, from the Pictish/Viking levels. We still don't know what it is, but there's been lots of suggestions - it's more fun guessing what it is than knowing for sure!
No sooner had we found it than our resident man of many talents Alan Braby (archaeologist, illustrator, Living History reenactor) had made a copy and used it at one of our public events:
Getting quite nostalgic now, so I think it's time to close, hopefully you've enjoyed this little run down of past years and here's hoping for a spectacular 2022 season!