Accessibility

Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Rousay, Knowe Of Swandro

Cellular Building (Pictish)(Possible), Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Roundhouse(S) (Iron Age), Coin (9th Century)

Site Name Rousay, Knowe Of Swandro

Classification Cellular Building (Pictish)(Possible), Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Roundhouse(S) (Iron Age), Coin (9th Century)

Canmore ID 2169

Site Number HY32NE 19

NGR HY 3753 2966

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/2169

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Collections

Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Rousay And Egilsay
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY32NE 19 3753 2966

(HY 3752 2968) Knowe of Swandro (NR)

OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed., (1900).

The much-disturbed remains of a stony mound. To judge from a series of large slabs set on edge over an area measuring roughly 72 ft by 24 ft, there may have been a group of graves here, possibly of Viking origin. 'This conjecture is to some extent supported by the fact that a typical Viking sword and a shield-boss (HY32NE 3) ... were ploughed up separately close to the site: on the onther hand, these Viking relics may have been intrusions in a previously existing structure.'

RCAHMS 1946.

Knowe of Swandro, a mutilated turf-covered mound 1.5 m. high, apparently containing the remains of a drystone structure. Unable to classify, but possibly associated with the nearby Viking hall (HY32NE 17).

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (NKB), 8 June 1967.

The size and shape of this turf-covered mound suggests it to be the NE half of a broch, and a trench cut across it (but now filled in) revealed enough surviving walling to support this classification. Paving reaching from the nearby Viking hall for several yards towards this mound suggests that the mound provided a source of building material for the hall and farmstead.

Visited by OS (AA), 10 October 1972.

Activities

Publication Account (1946)

The much-disturbed remains of a stony mound. To judge from a series of large slabs set on edge over an area measuring roughly 72 ft by 24 ft, there may have been a group of graves here, possibly of Viking origin. 'This conjecture is to some extent supported by the fact that a typical Viking sword and a shield-boss (HY32NE 3) ... were ploughed up separately close to the site: on the onther hand, these Viking relics may have been intrusions in a previously existing structure.'

RCAHMS 1946.

Field Visit (8 June 1967)

Knowe of Swandro, a mutilated turf-covered mound 1.5 m. high, apparently containing the remains of a drystone structure. Unable to classify, but possibly associated with the nearby Viking hall (HY32NE 17).

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (NKB) 8 June 1967

Field Visit (10 October 1972)

The size and shape of this turf-covered mound suggests it to be the NE half of a broch, and a trench cut across it (but now filled in) revealed enough surviving walling to support this classification. Paving reaching from the nearby Viking hall for several yards towards this mound suggests that the mound provided a source of building material for the hall and farmstead.

Visited by OS (AA) 10 October 1972.

Orkney Smr Note (September 1980)

Obscure: has been fancifully linked to Sweyn Asleifsson; more

likely from svin swine - Marwick Place Names of Rousay

Kirkwall 1947 p 90 suggests svin-trod swine-run.

===============================================================

... immense piles of stones, evidently the ruins of some

ancient structure, around which are to be seen graves formed with

stones set on edge ... the name of Swendrow which it bears...

[R1]

Semicircular turfed mound as described, open towards sea.

It seems a bit insubstantial for a broch and it would be

necessary to assume a lot of past erosion (not now active) to

account for destruction of seaward side. It is now 4m clear of

shoreline. Probably a prehistoric house, possibly wheelhouse

type.

Information from Orkney SMR (RGL) Sep 80.

Publication Account (2002)

HY32 8 KNOWE OF SWANDRO

HY/375297

Possible broch on Rousay I. a much disturbed stony mound which seems to contain the remains of a dry stone building, perhaps the north-east half of a broch [1]. A Viking hall is nearby [1] and a Viking sword and shield boss were ploughed up separately close to the site [1, 3, 4]. No doubt any nearby broch would have been robbed of stone for this hall.

Sources: 1. OS card HY 32 NE 19: 2. RCAHMS 1946, 2, no. 579, 220: 3. "Notes on relics of the Viking period", Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 10 (1872-74) 4. Brogger 1929, 131-2: 5. Lamb 1982, 22.

E W MacKie 2002

Excavation (23 June 2010 - 14 July 2010)

HY 3727 3037 (Brough), HY 3723 3036 (Ditch), HY 3753

2966 (Swandro) A team from the University of Bradford,

Orkney College (UHI) and City University New York cleaned,

recorded and sampled three sites from 23 June–14 July 2010

as part of the ‘Orkney – Gateway to the Atlantic Project’. The

project aims to investigate and record coastal sites in Rousay,

Egilsay and Wyre which are threatened by rising sea levels

and coastal erosion.

The Knowe of Swandro. This site which consists of a

mound with stone inclusions and is located behind a beach

on the Bay of Swandro, close to the Norse house site known

as Westness (HY32NE 17), is also thought to be Iron Age in

date. Visual examination prior to this season’s excavations

suggested that the mound is subject to coastal erosion.

The objectives for the 2010 season’s work were to locate

a reported earlier excavation trench and to characterise

the mound, which has been variously described as a

broch, a ‘mutilated turf-covered mound’ (OS 1967) and a

‘stony mound’ (RCAHMS 1946). The planned investigation

extended onto the beach rather than along the coastline as

it became obvious that the site extended under the storm

beach towards the tide line.

A small trench, 2.5 x 8m, was opened across the SE end

of the curving bank and hollow on the top of the mound.

The hollow centre of the mound, which had appeared to be

the result of earlier investigations, seems not to have been

disturbed; there was a fine and even layer of shillet sealing

this area which appeared to be a weathering deposit. A

Cleaning the erosion face of the South Howe mound tumble of rocks sealed the shillet and butted a stone feature which appeared to be structural and may be a partially destroyed length of wall. Two other small stone features may

also be fragments of walling but this cannot be determined

without more extensive excavation. There was an area of

paving composed of large, flat worn stones in the E of the

trench. This was sealed by a small patch of limpet midden in

the NE corner. The very top of an orthostat was visible in the

SE corner of the trench.

The area was cleaned, planned and photographed and the

contexts recorded. A number of conclusions can be drawn on

the basis of the evidence from this season’s work. There are a

number of phases to this part of the mound and the presence

of worn paving at the very top of the sequence, sealing or

butting an earlier wall, suggests that the site is composed of

more than a single structure. The presence of the undisturbed

shillet suggests that wherever the earlier investigations were

located, the hollow area is not the result of this but rather

represents a weathering layer over undisturbed contexts.

The tops of a series of orthostats had been noted among

the boulders and shingle of the storm beach and appeared to

be a previously unrecognised part of the site. Investigation of

these features completely changed the interpretation of the

mound. An area, c5 x 6m, stretching from the erosion bank at

the top of the beach down towards the sea was cleared. The

orthostats, which had appeared level with the boulders and

shingle, survived to a height of at least 0.5m and appeared

to form the backs and sides of three cells of a curving dry

stone structure, whose projected centre was somewhere

below the current high tide mark. The largest cell, to the

E of the feature, contained several phases of paving and

also had paving in front of a long dressed kerb stone which

formed the front of the cell. The two smaller cells to the W

also retained areas of paving and patches of ash rich midden

survived between and on top of the stones. This midden

produced well preserved bone and pottery which on initial

examination appears to be of Late Bronze Age or Early Iron

Age date. The structure appears to continue towards the high

tide mark and lies well within the area of the spring tides and

of storm events. The back of the structure was sealed by more

midden of a later date, which appeared to be earlier than

the features investigated at the top of the mound, although

this cannot be confirmed without further investigation. Bulk

samples were taken from the midden contexts within the

structure. The charred plant remains and animal bones will

provide palaeoeconomic information and radiocarbon dates.

The excavated beach area was consolidated with geotextile,

sandbags and boulders, whilst the area at the top of the

mound was backfilled and returfed.

Archive and reports: Orkney SMR and RCAHMS (intended) Digital

record: ADS (intended)

Funder: Orkney Islands Council, University of Bradford, Orkney

College and City University of New York

Archaeological Evaluation (22 July 2011 - 27 July 2011)

HY 3727 3037 (Brough) and HY 3753 2966 (Swandro) A team from the University of Bradford, Orkney College (UHI) and City University New York cleaned, recorded and sampled the site at Swandro, 22 June–27 July 2011, as part of the ‘Orkney Gateway to the Atlantic Project’. The project aims to investigate and record coastal sites in Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre which are threatened by rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

The Mound of Brough The man-made mound at ‘Brough’, also known as South Howe, on the SW shore of Rousay contains an eroding Iron Age broch and houses. These structures seem to be overlain by Late Norse buildings which in turn are overlain by 19th-century middens. This broch is only a few hundred metres away from the Broch of Midhowe.

The Knowe of Swandro Work on the Knowe of Swandro this year again concentrated on two areas, the mound itself (Area B) and the eroding beach deposits (Area A). An area 4 x 10m was deturfed on the mound and features defined. The structural elements noted in the 2010 season were investigated and appear to be the remains of a substantial double faced curving wall. A small area of paving close to the beach section appears to be later in date.

On the storm beach, the cleared area was extended to 4 x 10m, to assess the extent of the remaining deposits. Midden and other features were found to extend to the high tide mark and further test pitting at low tide revealed that anthropogenic deposits stretched under the storm beach and sand deposits to the low tide line. A sondage in the E corner of the excavated area showed a complex series of stony midden deposits to a depth of >1.5m below the eroded surface; at this depth, a freshwater spring made excavation difficult, but the sondage demonstrates the depth of midden deposits under the eroding beach. Finds from these middens include a worked bone pin, pottery and well preserved bone.

The remains of a prehistoric structure, first investigated last year, were further excavated and samples taken for environmental evidence and radiocarbon dating. A single radiocarbon date indicated a date in the 1st to 2nd century AD. Archaeomagnetic dates obtained from an earlier hearth indicate use in the 4th to 2nd centuries BC.

Clearance of large beach boulders on the W edge of Area A revealed large dressed stones, much battered by the storm beach, forming a substantial wall which could be shown to be the continuation of the large curving wall seen in Area B.

Stratigraphically above the structure excavated last year, and physically further up the beach, a paved area, a fragment of hearth surround and a series of cells formed from orthostats indicated the presence of a later structure. The evidence suggests that Swandro is a multi-period settlement.

This years excavations have demonstrated that the deposits at Swandro are much deeper than initially suspected and the extent of the site much greater. Marine erosion has proceeded in a stepped fashion, so that the earliest deposits survive in greatest extent below the storm beach, whilst the later deposits are fragmentary.

Archive and reports: Orkney SMR and RCAHMS (intended). Digital record: ADS (intended)

Funder: Orkney Islands Council, University of Bradford, Orkney College and City University of New York

University of Bradford/ Orkney College, 2011

Archaeological Evaluation (20 June 2012 - 19 July 2012)

HY 3753 2966 (Swandro) A team from the University of Bradford, Orkney College (UHI), William Paterson University and City University New York cleaned, recorded and sampled the site at Swandro, 20 June – 19 July 2012, as part of the ‘Orkney – Gateway to the Atlantic Project’. The project aims to investigate and record coastal sites in Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre which are threatened by rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

The Beach The investigation of odd stones just visible among the pebbles on the beach below the eroding site has completely changed our understanding of this enigmatic mound. Initial clearance of the overlying beach material revealed the remains of an Iron Age structure. This was confirmed by an AMS radiocarbon date of 25BC-AD130 at 95% confidence for carbonised barley from a midden which sealed flagging in one of the compartments. Work in 2011 (DES 2011, 136–7) enabled the nature of the erosion to be more fully understood together with an indication of archaeological survival and potential. The sea had created terraces or steps within the archaeological mound, with each of these eroded scars being covered by redeposited beach material.

In 2011, on the NW western side of the cleared archaeological surface, the remains of a substantial outer wall forming the arc of a large circular building seemed to form the continuation of a crescent shaped ridge at the top of the mound, and it was thought to be the outer wall of a large roundhouse of broch proportions.

A Chambered Cairn? In 2012 this substantial wall was investigated more fully; clearance of the overlying beach material revealed a circular structure. This was formed by a number of concentric outer wall faces. Each arc of wall was backed by a stone and midden core. Rather than the expected broch, the structure of this monument more closely parallels the construction of a Neolithic chambered tomb. A wall running eastwards is suggestive of an outer-work leading into an entrance passage. Cutting into and sealing the top of this enigmatic monument were further Iron Age buildings represented by truncated flag floors and orthostats.

Despite aggressive erosion, shown by the worn outer faces of the walls which have been battered by the sea and the constant movement of the boulder beach, this probable chambered cairn still remains intact, and has great archaeological potential.

The excavation of the seaward outer rings proved difficult, as the sea would cover these at high tide and work had to be timed to coincide with low tides, after substantial amounts of bailing. Bone from the Iron Age middens and between the concentric walls of the cairn survives well even in areas truncated by the sea. This means that the potential for in situ human remains within the tomb is high and in consequence this is an extremely important site. Re-evaluation of existing tomb assemblages are currently challenging previously held interpretations. This site offers the rare opportunity to excavate using modern methods and techniques, a tomb which in a few years time will be completely lost to the Atlantic.

Work to the SE in 2012 saw the continuation of Late Iron Age walling on the foreshore under the boulder beach and now indicates that the Norse Hall overlies earlier settlement material.

This year’s excavations have demonstrated that the deposits at Swandro are more extensive and the deeper deposits are much earlier than initially suspected.

Archive and report: Orkney SMR and RCAHMS (intended). Digital records: ADS

Funder: Orkney Islands Council, University of Bradford, Orkney College, City University of New York and William Patterson University

SJ Dockrill, University of Bradford

JM Bond, Orkney College

J Downes,

IL Mainland,

R Maher,

2012

Archaeological Evaluation (23 June 2013 - 19 July 2013)

HY 3753 2966 A team from the University of Bradford, Orkney College (UHI), William Paterson University and City University New York cleaned, recorded and sampled the site at Swandro, 23 June – 19 July 2013, as part of the ‘Orkney – Gateway to the Atlantic Project’. The project aims to investigate and record coastal sites in Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre which are threatened by rising sea levels and coastal erosion. Work on the Knowe of Swandro this year again concentrated on two areas, the mound itself and the eroding beach deposits.

In the first season of the project, upright stones just visible among the pebbles on the beach below the eroding site were investigated and proved to be part of a series of structures and features surviving beneath the storm beach (DES 2010, 123). Subsequent investigation of this area has completely changed our understanding of this enigmatic mound.

Initial clearance of the overlying beach material revealed the remains of what appeared to be an Iron Age structure. This was confirmed by an AMS radiocarbon date of 25BC–AD130 at 95% confidence for carbonised barley from a midden that sealed flagging in one of the compartments. Work in 2012 (DES 2012, 135) enabled the nature of the erosion to be more fully understood, indicating significant archaeological survival and potential. It can now be seen that the sea has created terraces or steps within the archaeological mound, with each of these eroded scars being covered by redeposited beach material.

In 2011 on the NW side of the cleared surface, the remains of a substantial and well built outer wall forming the arc of a large circular building were revealed.Further clearance of the beach material in 2012 showed that there was a series of three substantial concentric outward facing walls, and the structure appears to be a Neolithic chambered cairn, surrounded by later settlement.

Work in 2013 concentrated on the continuation of the site to the SE of the mound, extending towards the Norse house site known as Westness. Investigation this year has demonstrated a Late Iron Age and Pictish phase of Swandro, indicated by cellular structures contained by the infilled remains of more substantial Iron Age structures. Material recovered from these structures included fragments of glass and copper alloy, hammer scale, slag, vitrified material and a small copper alloy projecting-headed pin. It can now be seen that the truncated remains of the Norse hall of Westness clearly overlie the Swandro Late Iron Age settlement.

On the beach close to the chambered cairn, the truncated remains of the earliest Iron Age building (Structure 1) were further investigated and found to contain an orthostat and stone construction interpreted as an oven. This feature has a close parallel with the 1st century BC oven excavated by the authors in Structure 8 at Old Scatness, Shetland.

Excavation of the shoreward part of the Swandro mound continued in 2013 and indicated that stone from the upper parts of the Neolithic chambered cairn had been robbed in antiquity. Excavation identified shillet and midden deposits in this area of disturbance, though the date of this activity has not yet been established.

Archive and report: Orkney HER and RCAHMS (intended). Digital records: ADS

Funder: Orkney Islands Council, University of Bradford, Orkney College, City University of New York and William Patterson University

SJ Dockrill and JM Bond, University of Bradford and R Maher, Orkney College, 2013

(Source: DES)

Archaeological Evaluation (16 June 2014 - 26 July 2014)

HY 3753 2966 A team from the University of Bradford, Orkney College (UHI), William Paterson University and City University New York cleaned, recorded and sampled the site at Swandro, 16 June – 26 July 2014, as part of the Orkney Gateway to the Atlantic Project. The project aims to investigate and record coastal sites in Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre which are threatened by rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

Work in 2014 focused on the beach where investigation of set orthostatic stones just visible among the pebbles on the beach indicated archaeological survival below the eroding site. Investigation of these features has completely changed our understanding of this enigmatic mound. Initial clearance of the overlying beach material revealed the remains of an Iron Age structure. This was confirmed by an AMS radiocarbon date of 25BC-AD130 at 95% confidence for carbonized barley from a midden which sealed flagging in one of the compartments.

Work in 2012 enabled the nature of the erosion to be more fully understood, indicating significant archaeological survival and potential. The sea had created terraces or steps within the archaeological mound, with each of these eroded scars being covered by redeposited beach material. In 2012 on the NW side of the cleared archaeological surface the remains of a substantial outer wall forming the arc of a large circular

building seemed to be the continuation of a crescent shaped ridge at the top of the mound. It was thought at first that this was the outer wall of a large roundhouse of broch proportions. However, the presence of a series of stepped concentric outer wall-faces with a mixed midden and rubble core suggests that the core of the mound is a Neolithic chambered cairn.

Work in 2013 concentrated on the continuation of the site SE of the mound. Investigation demonstrated that a Pictish phase, indicated by cellular structures contained within the infilled remains of more substantial Iron Age structures, show a continuation of the site on the foreshore and under

the boulder beach. The truncated remains of the ‘Norse Hall’ of Westness, previously excavated by Kaland (1993), clearly overlies the Late Iron Age settlement.

Excavation of the centre of the Swandro mound continued in 2014 and this now clearly indicates that the mound forming the Neolithic chambered cairn had been partially robbed in the Iron Age and infilled with Late Iron Age (Pictish) midden. On the seaward area of the beach under the mound, the truncated building (Structure 1) was further investigated and midden was found to continue seaward, but was clearly affected by the tidal action.

Work was concentrated on the excavation of the later Iron Age (Pictish) elements of the site. Here buildings were found to be nested in larger structures which had been truncated by the sea. The truncations were cleaned as sections, sampled and recorded. The excavation of one of these later truncated buildings (Structure 2) saw the sampling of floor surfaces down to the primary flag floor. The continued excavation and

sampling of the infill of a third building (Structure 3), close to the Westness houses, but partly within the eroding beach area, confirmed its form as a Pictish style multi-cellular building and revealed the presence of slag and crucible material suggesting copper alloy working in the deliberately deposited infill.

One of the larger structures into which the later structures are nested became clearer during this season’s excavation, with a substantial wall in the erosion section and a series of paved surfaces butting the wall on the outside face of the curve. A feature consisting of a set of paving slabs which had cracked and tipped downwards appears to be related to this

structure. When the flags were removed what appears to be a well was revealed, with dry stone walls, a flagged area around the top and a set of steps inside. When some of the rubble was removed it was found that the well was still active, refilling to the base of the steps with spring water.

Archive and report: Orkney SMR and RCAHMS. Digital records: ADS

Funder: Orkney Islands Council, University of Bradford, Orkney College, City University of New York and William Patterson University

SJ Dockrill, JM Bond and R Maher – University of Bradford (SJD/JMB) and Orkney College (RM)

(Source: DES)

Excavation (16 June 2015 - 26 July 2015)

HY 3753 2966 A team from the University of Bradford, Orkney College (UHI), William Paterson University and City University New York cleaned, recorded and sampled the site at Swandro, 16 June – 26 July 2015, as part of the Orkney Gateway to the Atlantic Project. The team included students,

freelance archaeologists and academics. The project aims to investigate and record coastal sites in Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre which are threatened by rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

Excavations at Swandro in 2015 saw a continuation of the work on the terraced beach with the further examination of the eroded Iron Age buildings investigated in the previous year. Structure 3, a Pictish building at the top of the series of eroded terraces, continued to be excavated with further signs of metalworking debris consisting of slag, furnace lining and crucible fragments being found. These infilling deposits were sampled and have high potential for botanical remains in the light fraction recovered from flotation. It now appears that the construction of the main Norse house excavated by Sigrid Kaland (1993) destroyed the eastern part of this structure, though the infill deposits may be earlier than this. To the W there seems to be a short passage leading out of the structure, with two possible steps. Further definition of other structural remains took place all along the upper terrace.

The Neolithic chambered cairn on the western boundary of the Iron Age site was uncovered to assess the tidal damage to the remains. This area was originally uncovered in 2012 and the structure of the cairn determined before being carefully recovered. However, observations last year suggested that

the large boulders had again shifted and that the outer of the casement walls was eroding. Excavation of the overlying beach and removal of the membrane laid down in 2012 showed an alarming amount of attrition to the monument. The stones forming the seaward part of the outer casement had been

rounded by the sea and much of the retained material had been washed out. The other casement walls also seem to be tipping seawards. This summer saw a lot of rainfall and a spring developed at the foot of the cairn draining towards the sea which may be hastening the erosion. The monument was

fully scanned using a 3D scanner by Dr A Wilson (University of Bradford), and aerial photos were taken (using a drone) by Robert Friel and Lindsey Kemp.

The passage entranceway on the E side of the tomb was located this season; two parallel wall faces lead through the cairn wall and are continued by a further wall which butts the outer casement walls of the cairn. It seems likely that this passage originally continued to the E but whether it was destroyed by Iron Age activity or continues in fragmentary form under the Iron Age structures which surround this side of the cairn is not yet known. This passageway has been deliberately filled with rubble and fine earth; a fragment of copper alloy and bone fragments, human and animal, were found in the top of the fill, but no further excavation took place on these deposits. Further investigation is needed to elucidate this relationship. Further excavation is planned for 2016.

Archive and report: ADS, National Record of the Historic Environment and Orkney SMR

Funder: Orkney Islands Council, Orkney Archaeological Society, University of Bradford, Orkney College, City University of New York and William Patterson University

SJ Dockrill, JM Bond, R Maher and R Friel – University of Bradford and Orkney College

(Source: DES, Volume 16)

Excavation (July 2016)

HY 3753 2966 (HY32NE 19) Evaluative excavation continued in July 2016. The archaeology is suffering from erosion from the sea which has cut into a settlement mound (Iron Age to Norse) developed upon the eastern flank of a Neolithic chambered cairn. Previous seasons have established the presence of a sequence of structures which has been exposed by the sea cutting into the archaeology forming a series of terraces. The erosion has provided an opportunity to examine and sample this archaeological sequence.

Unfortunately, the deposits surviving at the lowest terrace have suffered from extensive erosion, with much of the midden material having been washed away and the larger structural stones having been smoothed by the movement of water and beach material.

The chambered cairn – The outer casement wall of the Neolithic chambered cairn is butted by a single-faced alignment of stones, suggestive of a retaining wall. This was first observed in the 2012 season and again in 2015, when a much greater degree of erosion was noted. In 2016 this feature was investigated further in order to determine whether an old ground surface or underlying archaeology had survived the effects of the erosion by the sea. A number of large water worn boulders were found to be redeposited, implying the movement of large ‘storm thrown’ rocks. These sealed a dark yellow sand and a black compacted sand

containing decayed seaweed with no surviving evidence of any anthropogenic deposits or an in situ old ground surface.

Despite this sequence of redeposited material in the scoured area seawards of the cairn wall, the remains of a reddish ashy midden deposit was found to be sealed by the secondary retaining wall.

The entrance passage leading into the chambered cairn was also defined in 2015, upon the uppermost (landward) erosion terrace. The passage walls are single faced and the upper infill formed by a layer of small angular stone (shillet) containing copper alloy fragments, large fish and mammal bones appeared to reflect late activity. This was confirmed by the finding in post-excavation of a coin of EANRED, King of Northumbria AD810–840, together with the near complete skeleton of a cat. This disturbance and infilling might represent Viking period activity. Work in 2016 continued to define the top of the passage and to assess the nature of this later activity. The further excavation of the passage revealed more faunal remains including of several sheep displaying metal butchery marks. This deposit sealed large angular rubble which appears to be the infill of the passage.

Structure 1: A truncated Mid Iron Age roundhouse – This roundhouse is represented by just one segment of its circumferential cells, the interior and southern portion having been lost to the sea. The circumference of the building is formed by orthostats; the floor of the northern radial cell was

formed by a single flag, which had been made to fit the cell.

Several notches had been cut into the flag, which appear to be post settings. It seems likely that this would have supported a mezzanine level around the circumference of the structure.

The presence of such mezzanine structures is paralleled by Middle Iron Age remains at Old Scatness, Shetland.

Structure 2: A Late Iron Age roundhouse – Definition of the upper eroded terrace of the beach identified the remains of what appeared to be half of a cell-like circular structure. In 2016, investigation indicated that an orthostatic divide with flagging either side which had been identified in 2015, were found to be clearly later elements forming a modification to the building. These were removed to reveal the original form of the building, the curved line of orthostats together with a door sill (threshold stone) indicating a western entrance. The seaward section demonstrated a greater degree of erosion and did not survive. A floor level was formed by large flags with evidence of orthostatic radial divisions. Entering this

structure via the threshold stone, one of these radial orthostats blocks any turn to the left (north/landward side), confining movement to the centre or to the right. This phenomenon of barring entry to the left has also been observed within other Iron Age roundhouse structures in the Northern Isles at Old Scatness (Shetland). The flag floor and the hearth are clearly

part of a sequence of floors representing several modifications to the building as the remains of part of a rectangular stone tank could be clearly identified under the flags.

Structure 3 – A cellular structure with features suggesting a Pictish date, mostly still sealed by the northern landward section. The southern wall was identified and excavated first, and revealed evidence of an intramural cupboard, adjacent to a complete in situ cupboard. The contexts in the lower sequence under the rubble infill were found to contain some

evidence of metal working with finds of slag, small crucibles and mould fragments together with evidence of fragments of copper alloy. A series of steps was found to lead from the N (landward) section into the building, in a curved passageway whose stones demonstrated wear consistent with rubbing caused by the passage of the past occupants. The presence of a threshold stone in the narrow passage, together with a bolt hole clearly indicates that there would have been a physical door dividing the passage and the central area of the structure.

Archive: NRHE

Funder: Orkney Islands Council, University of Bradford, and Rousay Development Trust

JM Bond, SJ Dockrill and J Downes – University of Bradford and

Archaeology Institute, UHI

(Source: DES, Volume 17)

Excavation (July 2017)

HY 3753 2966 (HY32NE 19) Evaluative excavation continued upon the eroding beach at Swandro for a four week season in July 2017. The archaeology is suffering from erosion from the sea which has cut into a settlement mound (Mid Iron Age to Norse) developed upon the eastern flank of a Neolithic chambered cairn. Previous seasons have established the presence of a sequence of structures which has been exposed by the sea cutting into the archaeology, forming a series of terraces. The erosion has provided an opportunity to examine and sample this archaeological sequence. Unfortunately, the deposits surviving at the lowest terrace have suffered from extensive erosion, with much of the matrix having been washed away, leaving the larger structural stones, which have been smoothed by the movement of water and beach material.

In 2017, work concentrated on the later deposits within the passage of the chambered cairn, the eroding area SE of the outer casement wall of the cairn, and investigation also continued within two of the Iron Age buildings (Structure 2 and Structure 3).

The Chambered Cairn – The outer casement wall of the Neolithic chambered cairn is butted by a single faced alignment of stones, suggestive of a retaining wall. This was first observed in the 2012 season and again in 2015, when a much greater degree of erosion was noted. In 2016 this feature was investigated further in order to determine whether an old ground surface or underlying archaeology had survived the effects of the erosion by the sea. A number of large water worn boulders were found to be redeposited, implying the movement of large ‘storm thrown’ rocks. There is no surviving evidence of any anthropogenic deposits or an in situ old ground surface on the seaward arc of the outer casement wall of the cairn. A sequence of deposits was found to be retained by a second wall butting the outer casement wall and was investigated in 2017. These deposits have been subject to some tidal scouring but appear to be a sequence predating the Mid Iron Age roundhouse Structure 1. Investigation in 2017 provided strong evidence to suggest that there are also stratigraphic elements (structural and depositional) in this area that predate the construction of the outer casement wall of the chambered cairn.

The entrance passage leading into the chambered cairn was defined in 2015 upon the uppermost (landward) erosion terrace. The passage walls are single faced and the upper infill formed by a layer of small angular stone (shillet) containing copper alloy fragments, large fish and mammal bone appeared to reflect late activity. This was confirmed by the finding in post-excavation of a coin of EANRED, King of Northumbria AD810–840, together with the bones of several cats. This disturbance and infilling may represent Viking period activity. Work in 2016 continued to define the top of the passage and to assess the nature of this later activity. The further excavation of the passage revealed more faunal remains, including bones of sheep displaying metal butchery marks. The remnants of these later deposits were excavated in 2017 and the large angular rubble which appears to be the infill of the passage was defined along the length of the passage. The area outside of the passage was also investigated in 2017 and evidence of in situ lintels of a cell-like feature was found on the landward side of the passage entrance outside the casement wall.

Structure 2: A Late Iron Age roundhouse – Definition of the upper eroded terrace of the beach identified the remains of what appeared to be half of a cell-like circular structure. In 2016, investigation indicated that an orthostatic divide with flagging either side (which had been identified in 2015), were clearly later elements forming a modification to the building. These were removed to reveal the original form of the building, the curved line of orthostats together with a door sill (threshold stone) indicating a western entrance. The seaward section demonstrated a greater degree of erosion and did not survive. In 2016 a floor level defined by large flags was identified. The flag floor and the hearth are clearly part of a sequence of floors representing several modifications to the building as the remains of part of a rectangular stone tank could be clearly identified under the flags. In 2017 these flags were lifted and the sequence of ash, mixed ‘midden like’ material and stone packing were investigated. The rubble infill of the tank was excavated and the lower infill sampled. During the excavation a coin, a Nummus of Constans dating to AD348–350, was found.

Structure 3 – A cellular structure with features suggesting a Pictish date, mostly still sealed by the northern (landward) section. The southern wall was identified and excavated first and revealed evidence of an intramural cupboard, adjacent to a complete in situ cupboard. In 2016 the contexts in the lower sequence under the rubble infill were found to contain some evidence of metalworking with finds of slag, small crucibles and mould fragments together with evidence of fragments of copper alloy. A series of steps were found to lead from the N (landward) section into the building, in a curved passageway whose stones demonstrated wear consistent with rubbing caused by the passage of the past occupants. The presence of a threshold stone in the narrow passage, together with a bolt hole, clearly indicates that there would have been a physical door dividing the passage from the central area of the structure. Investigation in 2017 (aided by the archaeometallurgist Dr Gerry McDonnell) identified more evidence of metalworking including part of a fired clay tuyère. Evidence of a hearth, which had two phases of use and an associated ash rich surface was investigated and sampled. Further archaeological evidence for both copper alloy working and iron working was recovered in the 2017 season. A fallen, large elongated beach cobble appeared to have been once set upright adjacent to the hearth. The end of this stone had damage which was suggestive of its use as an anvil. Earlier wall elements representing a larger building, in which this Pictish cellular structure was constructed, were further defined in 2017.

Archive: NRHE

Funder: Orkney Islands Council, University of Bradford, Rousay Development Trust, Rousay Heritage Trust, Swandro Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust, and Orkney Archaeological Society

JM Bond and SJ Dockrill – University of Bradford/Archaeology Institute, UHI

(Source: DES, Volume 18)

References

MyCanmore Image Contributions


Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions