2006 Fieldwork Season
On Monday we began the task of unpeeling the layers of material that had protected the site over the winter. We had carefully covered the archaeology with breathable tarpaulin (Terram) and sandbags, a thick layer of sand, turf and finally large salmon nets. The turf had knitted and recovered well, and the fish nets had done a good job of protecting it from winter’s winds. A JCB did much of the heavy work for us on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it took another day of hard shovelling to clear the trench of sand. On Friday morning, we finally lifted the Terram and sandbags – revealing the walls and exposed occupation deposits, looking so pristine it was as if we had never been away!
We also began investigating two possible cairns about 70 metres to the north, close to the Pictish cairn excavated by Gerry Bigelow in the early 1980s. The ones we were interested in had been exposed by erosion since, and it seemed possible that they also sealed Pictish burials. However, excavation of parts of both proved that they were not cairns after all.
The floor of structure 1, the southern cell, was covered with a layer of rubble, with bright orange and black deposits overlying the stones. Excavating this, we found it consisted of burnt soil and ashes that had been swept out of a hearth and dumped here, along with large sherds of pottery. The massive slabs making up the rubble seem to have once formed the upper walls and perhaps also a corbelled roof, which collapsed at some point. After we removed the rubble, we found another thick midden deposit, full of pot sherds, burnt shell and animal bone, that had been dumped onto the paved floor of the cell. As we worked down to the paving, we found part of a possible tuyere – used to hold a bellows during metalworking – carved from steatite.
In structure 3, the northern cell, we’ve been removing the yellow clay floor that we exposed at the end of last season’s excavation. It turns out to be the latest in a series of clay floors that were laid over a paved floor; as the clay wore away or settled into hollows in the underlying stones, more clay was laid and slabs were put down in places to level up the floor.
A film crew from the BBC television programme ‘Coast’ spent Friday and Saturday on site, filming the excavations and interviewing members of the team. The presenter, Alice Roberts, is a bone specialist and she examined the skeleton excavated last year for us. She decided that the person was most likely a male (although with some decidedly feminine characteristics), who died in his mid twenties. He seemed reasonably healthy, and it wasn’t clear how he had died.
After a week of dull, grey weather, the sun burst out and shone all day Friday, luring a few members of the team into the sea for a tingly post-work swim.