2007 Fieldwork Season
Monday 28th May found us back at Sandwick for one final season of excavation. This time, instead of covering the site over, we’d be leaving it open, reconstructed and consolidated for all to see, thanks to the Council for Scottish Archaeology’s Adopt-a-Monument programme. In the meantime, we have three and a half weeks to uncover the last secrets of our Iron Age building.
We spent the first few days carefully uncovering the site – taking off the turf, then removing the thick sandy backfill using a JCB for the upper levels and shovels and hard graft for the lower sand. Once again we found the site well preserved under its blanket of Terram and sandbags. As in previous years, we used the backfill to build up a sandy berm along the seaward edge, to protect the site (and us) from the encroaching tide and provide a working platform. The winds battered us all week and it was Thursday before we managed to put up the site tent and build the feelie house.
On Thursday, we had a visit from the guys who will be putting the site back together: Jim Keddie, a stonemason, and Rick Barton, an archaeologist, both of whom have been working for years consolidating the complex late prehistoric settlement at Old Scatness on mainland Shetland. They’ll be bringing their expertise to reconstructing our building at Sandwick.
We finished off the week in the pub at the Baltasound Hotel – in character as Vikings, wearing costumes fashioned from leftover debris netting, fishing nets, cardboard and silver foil. We were a ferocious sight but were allowed into the pub nevertheless, where all had a grand night out.
We’ve been doing a bit more investigation in Structure 1, the best preserved of the cells. This has involved taking away part of its paved floor and excavating a section through the orthostatic wall. It looks as if a trench was cut for the wall, with large boulders set upright in it to form the inner face, and a core of rubble and an outer wall face set outside the cut on the contemporary ground surface to revet the uprights. The interior of the cell was scalped down to the glacial subsoil at this stage, and a thin layer of trample formed on it before the paving was laid on top of some bedding stones – which included a large lump of iron-working slag.
We also took away the hearth in Structure 1, which was uncovered toward the end of last year. Underneath it was an earlier hearth – which, like the one, was made of yellow clay packed around flat stones. In this hearth, big sherds of pottery from a large, burnished vessels had been set into the clay to form part of the hearth setting. The clay and stones had been scorched from the heat, and so had the adjacent face of a big upright which must have served as a fireback.
This week we also started taking apart Structure 2, 3 and 4. Structure 2 turns out to have been built fairly late in the sequence, by cobbling together a new, curving section of walling with pre-existing walls to the north and south. Structures 3 and 4 were earlier still.
It took some careful work with ropes and planks to move the big stones that made up Structures 3 and 4. We got most of them safely off the site, but left the two largest ones in place, at the southern end of Structure 3.