Picts and Pics

We had out Open Day today, complete with our Iron Age reenactors aka Keith and Alan the professionals, but also Elvire, who in addition to being our most consistent star find of the day finder, turned out to be a dab hand at tablet weaving too:

The stall looked pretty good all set up and thankfully the early morning rain had cleared so they didn't have to use the tent:

We'd started the day intending to clean up for a photograph, but the heavy overnight rain and continuing damp meant that everything was too soggy and claggy to work, so we had a site tour for the diggers first, letting the brisk wind dry out all the surfaces for us.

We always try and avoid treading on the claggy greasy midden when it's wet, as it's all too easy to leave boot prints an couple of inches deep, but with the strong breezes which we pretty much always have then it dries out quickly.


Following the site tour much of the day was taken up with frantic photo cleaning and recording, interspersed with removing a few large stones, as here with Lindsey Michal demonstrating the classic 'roll it up the gangplank' technique:


The sun finally did come out and apart from the occasional short squalls the rest of the day was fine, so photo clean proceeded and the visitors started to arrive.

We do try and give a bit of background to the archaeology of the surrounding area inour site tours, and generally mention the nearby site of the Westness Pictish and Viking cemetery, and the Norse longhouses adjacent to our mound at Swandro, and I remembered a dig diary post from way back in the dim-and-distant past of 2019 when I did a little roundup of the Swandro sword and associated sites which might be of interest.

If you read to the end of the piece you'll see that I was intending to head down to the NLS in Edinburgh to check out the Traill papers for any further mention of the planned19th century excavation (of which there is no record). However, via the power of the internet, I was then contacted by Angela Freund, now Dr Angela Freund, who very kindly provided me with a scan in the pages in the Traill papers referring to the sword, which she had accessed as part of her own research, and noted that she hadn't found any mention of an excavation. It appears that the 'many graves' described in the 19th century account were subsequently - like so much of Orkney's archaeology - destroyed without record as a result of 19th century agricultural improvement. At least, although our site at Swandro is being destroyed by the sea, we're doing our very best to make a thorough record of it before it goes.