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Week Five (29th June – 5th July)

Excavation site diary

With the structure now all but gone, except for the stone at the base of the tank, the archaeologists were able to investigate the hole into which the buildings were placed. Finn, Jakob and newly arrived team member Ian revealed that voids between the stonework and the edge of the cut were filled with ashy soils, some of which yielded small pot sherds. In the boggy area surrounding the tank, a few fragments of waterlogged wood, together with some possible bone, were found. The team also removed the lower base slab of the tank to reveal further flat stones which appeared to have been laid as a foundation.

Stalwart volunteers Catherine and Vicki again turned out to complete investigations on the mound surface, while Tessa and Amanda made a detailed drawing of the section through the mound. By midweek, the site was reduced to a large hole within a now-decimated mound! The exercise of removing the structure was very interesting in archaeological terms, however, since it gave the archaeologists an opportunity to thoroughly investigate how the building was constructed. They now have a clearer picture of how the site was built and how it developed through time.

Drawing the section

Drawing the section

In its original form, the site probably comprised of a tank and hearth, surrounded by a sheltering bank of discarded stone debris. Over time, this mound of debris built up into a substantial heap and a decision was taken to remodel the mound and build a stone structure to contain the hearth and tank. This was achieved by cutting a pit into the mound and lining it with coursed stonework. At the seaward end, several free-standing walls were built, presumably enclosing the tank and probably supporting a roof. During its lifetime, the floor of the structure was repaved on several occasions. In the area of the hearth, the damaging effects of intense heat led to the floors being replaced more frequently than anywhere else. There is much more for the archaeologists to analyse and consider during their post-excavation work, and a full report is being written that will be made available in the new year.

By the end of the week, what was left of the site was again covered with geotextile and backfilled. This will allow archaeologists of the future to revisit the site, should they wish to, although they may be just as happy to visit the reconstruction!

Preparing to backfill the site

Preparing to backfill the site

Reconstruction site diary

With the stones safely transported to the reconstruction site, work could begin on the reconstruction. The reconstruction team, master mason Jim Keddie and archaeologist Ric Barton have worked for many years at the Old Scatness Broch reconstruction, in the south of Sheltand, and so were used to working on ancient buildings. However, they had never had the challenge of rebuilding a site so exactly before, with every stone individually labelled so that it could be put back in exactly the same relative position as at the original site. A further complication was trying to replicate the undulating topography of the original site. At Cruester, the passageway lying parallel to the coast edge sloped down towards the hearth cell, where it joined the second passageway at right-angles. This, too, was sloping, dropping down from the hearth towards the tank. Although the slope was quite gradual, there was quite a large difference in the relative heights of the floors between one end of the structure and the other, and it was crucial to get these heights right.

The reconstruction team worked by reducing or building up the floor level to get the right height. They then dropped the larger orthostats into foundation pits drilled into the bedrock. This gave them the skeleton of the building and they were able to construct the short lengths of wall between each orthostat, using the smaller stones taken from the original site.


To see how the site was transformed, click here.



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