Shillet Sieving - boring or what?

Sieving the spoil from an archaeological excavation has got to be the most boring occupation in the known universe and also one of the more backbreaking tasks, bent over a sieve picking out all the tiny fragments of bone, pottery and suchlike that wouldn't otherwise be recovered. Our new sieves have been worth their weight in gold, making the task as easy as possible, but there was still such a backlog of buckets building up today that we had to put down a tarpaulin to hold the overflow:

We were driving the sieving team quietly mad today because one of the contexts being sieved was a one with loads of shillet (small fragments of stone) that we were mattocking out from a possible Viking/Norse area of stone robbing over one of our Iron Age buildings.


This was as you might expect horribly stony, and no matter how many bigger rocks we picked out before sending it down to the sievers the sieves just seemed to be a mass of stone. The sievers coped admirably and were the last in at break time and the first back out afterwards, and remained incredibly cheerful throughout.

We do have one labour saving device on the sieves though - Dave who built them cleverly put a slope at each side to funnel the sieved dirt away, with a place to put a rubber trug underneath to catch it, this is then poured into rubble sacks to produce sandbags for when we're backfilling the site.


Last year we had to mattock out the spoilheap to fill the sandbags we use to pad the walls, which was a miserable task, this year we'll have ready filled bags just waiting to be used - the simplest ideas are always the best.

Elsewhere on site Rose was removing thick middeny rubble inside the Iron age roundhouse and hoping to find a decent floor surface soon:

We also found an nice job for Peter on his last day on site, excavating the cattle mandibles from the midden inside the roundhouse - see if you can guess from this photo what he does in real life:

Did you guess consultant neurosurgeon? Probably not! Funnily enough he reckons that scrubbing up before going into the operating theatre is much harder on your hands than excavation.

Tomorrow is our day off this week (another 6 day week, always happens, the two days off a week is largely notional) and we're hoping that the weather settles down a bit next week, see you then!

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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