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Week Two (8th – 14th June)

Excavation site diary

Members of the excavation team assembled by EASE Archaeology arrived from Edinburgh and Orkney at the beginning of the week. The group included the directors of the original 2000 excavation project, Graeme Wilson and Hazel Moore, together with seasoned Northern Isles excavators Amanda Brend, Jakob Kainz, Tessa Poller and Finn Morris. On Sunday morning they met up with Rick Barton and Jim Keddie, representing the reconstruction team, together with Tom and Helen, to discuss the project schedule and working methods. The site was inspected and the information used to complete a Risk Assessment. At the meeting, the logistics of dismantling the structures and arranging for the stones to be labelled and photographed in advance of their transportation to the reconstruction site was discussed.

Site planning meeting

Site planning meeting

On Sunday night, Graeme and Tom gave a short introductory talk about the history of the site and the aims of the current archaeological project at the Bressay Heritage Centre.

The next day, the archaeologists started taking up the protective covers placed over the stone floors and walls. It is not often that archaeologists get to re-visit old excavations and Graeme and Hazel were pleased to see that the covers had protected the structures. The main features, such as the tank, paved passages and hearth cell were readily identifiable and the walling appeared to have survived intact. With the covers off, the team cleaned away loose soil from the interior of the structure in preparation for photography and recording.

The site after being cleaned

Meanwhile, on the top of the mound, the original trench was extended with the help of local volunteers Catherine Browne, Vicki Coleman, Zoe Anderson and Helen Lisk. With time being very tight during the excavation in 2000, the team had not had much time to investigate the mound and it was a real bonus to be able to get a second chance.

It is known that the mound is made up from burnt stone and ashy soils, but it is unsure whether there are separate phases of activity represented or whether earlier structural remains lie beneath. During EASE excavations at another burnt mound at Tangwick in Eshaness, considerable quantities of pottery were recovered from the mound. The uppermost layers of the Cruester mound have so far yielded only a few small scraps of pot and quartz chips- and it will be very interesting to see what may be uncovered by the excavation over the next four weeks.


Excavating the top of the mound

Excavating the top of the mound

Despite some very unseasonable weather, by the end of the week the diggers had been able to re-identify and record the structure and make one part of it, Cell A, ready for numbering and removal by the reconstruction team. On the mound, the team and local volunteers removed topsoil to expose the latest in the sequence of burnt stone deposits; more enigmatic was the suggestion that a pit may have been cut into the highest part of the mound- more excavation is needed to determine what this may have been used for.

Reconstruction site diary

Back at the Heritage Centre, local contractors Stewart and Grant Hunter used a tracked vehicle fitted with a breaker to smash into the mound of bedrock. Using the lines marked by Helen and Tom, they dug down into the natural rock. Their precision digging meant that the hole produced was exactly the same shape as the outer walls of the building. The original site was constructed on a slope, with the parts closest to the sea being lower than those at the back of the building, and this, too, was replicated.

Machine starting to dig the hole at the reconstruction site

The broken stone was scooped into a large trailer and moved away from the hole; the boulders destined to be used in parts of the reconstruction building. They also cut into the hill to produce an access ramp that led from level of the adjacent car park up to the top of the mound.

By the end of the week at the excavation site, the archaeologists had exposed and cleaned a sufficient area of the site to allow the labelling of some of the stonework. Rick Barton from the reconstruction team began the painstaking process of labelling each stone with its own unique identification code.

Rick coding the stones

The codes were written with waterproof marker on an area of white paint, which was then varnished to protect it. After the walls have been reconstructed, the code will be removed.

Coded stones

Rick also took detailed photographs of the walls which he annotated with the code numbers. The photographs will be used in conjunction with the detailed survey plans and will help show where the stones need to be placed in the reconstruction.-

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