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Why we need your help

Excavation is expensive, even with the majority of team members donating their time for free. Post-excavation work – everything that goes on behind the scenes when we're not on site – is even more expensive.  In the current economic climate funding is in increasingly short supply, and grant-giving bodies don't generally consider archaeological excavation a funding priority. Much excavation in the UK is funded by commercial developers in advance of construction, but this funding stream is not open to sites such as ours which is being destroyed by the natural forces of coastal erosion.


All of these factors mean that we rely heavily on donations from members of the public and support from local businesses, supplemented by small grants from charitable trusts (all of which are gratefully received and acknowledged on our supporters pages). There is some good news though: we have already secured sponsorship from local business Orkney Archaeology Tours to cover the analysis and specialist report for the anticipated human remains from the chambered tomb at the Knowe of Swandro. Specialist cleaning and conservation, analysis and reporting and publication to the highest modern standards on such an assemblage, if charged at current commercial rates, might be expected to cost in the region of £15,000 - £60,000 (depending on the numbers of individuals recovered from the tomb, but likely to be between 25 - 100), so this is a significant saving to the Trust. Orkney Archaeology Tours also sponsor all of our administration costs, such as postage and printing, and pay for our website. The Swandro Trust doesn't have paid employees and we don't spend any money on fundraising. All of this means that every penny you donate goes straight to the excavation itself. 

Our costs


Before we can even consider going on site we have to be insured for public and employer's liability – legally volunteers count as employees, and without public liability insurance we couldn't allow people to visit the dig. Then the logistics of digging in small islands mean that we have a lot of extra costs such as ferry fares. For example for the Knowe of Swandro excavation and travelling expenses for the core team and equipment from Mainland Scotland to Orkney, then further ferry fares to get to Rousay.  We need to transport the digging team around Rousay and to the road above site, so we have to hire a minibus as we don't own any vehicles.  We have further problems caused by the remote nature of our excavation sites, Swandro is at the bottom of a steep hill accessible only with 4 x 4 vehicles. This means that we can't hire portacabins to use as temporary site accommodation, we have to have our own trailers. 

Equipment has to be purchased and these costs rapidly mount up: spades, mattocks, wheelbarrows, buckets, shovels, first aid kits, finds trays, bags and boxes, permeable membrane to protect the site, shelving for finds storage, ranging poles, drawing materials, string, site barriers, electronic equipment … the list is pretty much endless. 


Post-excavation costs soon mount up too - for example radiocarbon dates cost £375 each including VAT; all finds – whether artefacts (items made by people such as coins, metalwork, pottery, stone tools) and ecofacts (such as animal or fish bone) have to be carefully conserved and studied and specialist reports and analyses conducted; environmental samples need to be  processed and analysed; isotope and DNA studies conducted on the human remains; the site records made in the field carefully assessed, interpreted and archived;  and finally all the site reports written and prepared for publication. 


So as you can see there are an awful lot of costs involved, and we need all the help we can get. We would really very much appreciate it if you might consider a small donation to our excavation fund.

Examples of what we've spent your donations on so far

It's only thanks to your generosity that we've been able to buy this equipment  and we are very grateful for the support of you, the public - thank you!


A second-hand finds hut trailer

A larger trailer to serve as a toilet/site hut

Shelving for finds storage in the trailers

A tent to keep the diggers dry at tea break time

A reconditioned ipad and keyboard for on-site data entry and upload to secure servers of vital records

First aid kit, extra plasters and eyewash

Twelve wheelbarrows

24 buckets

6 mattocks

6 shovels

48 tyre rubber trugs (for carrying soil and stones)

Two rolls of Terram protective membrane for covering the site between seasons

Five surveyor's ranging poles

1,800 rubble sacks and cable ties for environmental samples and sandbags

60 Finds trays

200 Cardboard & 50 plastic boxes for packing finds

Packing tape

Several thousand plastic finds bags

Bubble wrap

We also thanks to your generosity have funding available for 8 radiocarbon dates

None of our Trustees receive any payments from the Trust. 

Thank you for your support!

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