Just over 10 weeks to go until we're back on site for Swandro 2019 and we're hoping it's going to be the best season yet! We've pretty much got our full complement of volunteers who are coming from far and wide, together with our students from the University of Bradford and also CUNY in the USA, and of course our old warhorses who come back year after year. A lot of the latter are taking unpaid leave from their real jobs in archaeology to come and work at Swandro, like Alice and Jackie, here hard at work, on a proper busman's holiday during last year's dig:
The first act this year - before we clutter up the grassy mound that covers the landward part of the site with tents and piles of rubble - is to undertake a ground penetrating radar survey of the site. Dr Chris Gaffney from the University of Bradford is coming up with his kit, and we hope to be able to resolve the question of whether the walling found underneath the Pictish smithy at the end of the 2018 season is in fact the revetment (i.e. a retaining wall) for the side of a large ditch or something else entirely. That's the bit of walling you can see just to the left of Alan in this pic, just underneath the red and white pole, revealed by a small box section cut into the deposits underlying the smithy:
Ground penetrating radar has been used to great effect elsewhere and Chris has been involved in many other notable surveys, such as the work around Stonehenge and we're hopeful it will resolve our little ditch/wall conundrum too. Whatever it turns out to be, we're currently thinking that it's probably Iron Age from its position, but whether it's related to all the Iron Age buildings to the north ...
...or if it's part of something completely different and as yet undiscovered, located to the south of the area we've been working on, is at the moment open to debate. The ground penetrating radar will hopefully settle the matter.
In other news the 2018 Swandro Data Structure Report - or DSR for short - has been completed and submitted to Historic Environment Scotland for their approval. This is basically a very detailed kind of interim report summarising what went on during the 2018 excavation and what it all means in the context of the site. As soon as it has the official HES stamp of approval we'll upload it to our website. In the meantime the 2018 entry for Discovery and Excavation in Scotland (DES for short) has been added to the rest of the DES for past years and can be downloaded for free along with lots of background information, on the 'more information' page of our website. Now to introduce you to the newest member of Team Swandro: the Swandro Land Rover - now renamed the SwandRover - here seen in the car park at Thurso before getting on the boat to Orkney, after a long drive up from Cannock just north of Birmingham:
We want to send out huge thanks to our friends at local business Orkney Archaeology Tours for providing the SwandRover for us for as long as we need it and paying for all the maintenance, insurance, road tax and running costs. We've struggled for some time with transport in Rousay and can only afford to hire a small 8 seat minibus for the duration of the dig, which, not being an off-road vehicle, can't get down to the excavation site itself which is away over the fields and down at the shore. Having the SwandRover will be brilliant as we can get it down to site and it seats 10 people plus the driver and we can even strap 3 or 4 diggers on the roof rack ... only joking!
Seriously the roof rack will come in very handy on the Rousay ferry - you only get charged for the length of the vehicle, not for the height, so there's no extra charge for stacking gear on the roof. If you come and visit us in 2019 you can even have your picture taken with it - how's that for a treat!