We hadn’t originally planned to work weekends, but the time lost to the rain during the first week put us behind schedule, so we decided to work on the weekend to catch up. A four-week field season is about as little as you would every want to do, especially given how far it is to get here. I usually do a 6-8 week season when working in Alabama, so this brief field season means we have to make the most of every possible minute.
We continued to work on the two major excavation areas we started this week – one along the eastern edge of the island that showed clear signs of damage due to erosion and one placed more toward the island’s northern interior. Both units were placed over low mounds thought to be related to architectural remains. Although we haven’t exposed a great deal of either structure at this point, there are some obvious wall lines emerging that suggest these are something more than piles of stones haphazardly cleared from the fields to facilitate agriculture. We have also started to find small pieces of metal and a few ceramics dating everywhere from the 19th Century all the way to the Neolithic Period more than 5,000 years ago.
I’m very pleased with the students’ work ethic on display so far. They are eager to learn more about the excavation process and several of them have started to find areas of our work they find particularly interesting. Putting up our laser transit (total station) has become a central part of the project and each student has spent time learning how to put up, use, and break down the unit. Thank you Leica for making a total station that isn’t a pain to use! Yes, I’m ragging on you, Topcon! (Inside joke for the archaeologists out there).
Niall’s daughter is graduating from college this weekend, so I took him to the airport in Benbecula and we made several stops along the way to see other archaeological sites that have either already been dug on the island or those we would like to see more effort devoted to examining. Among the most impressive sites we visited was the Bronze Age site of Cladh Hallan, a series of roundhouses with stone revetments built directly into the Machair sands on the western side of South Uist. It is world famous for the mummy burials found here by Professor Michael Parker Pearson.
Here is a link to more information on the site: Cladh Hallan in BBC News
Here is a photo of one of the houses at Cladh Hallan.
After visiting Cladh Hallan we moved on to Dun Vulan, an amazing broch that Niall partially excavated back in the 1990s. It is an amazing structure, but it is poised right along the sea coast and has been damaged by coastal erosion. We are discussing the possibility of submitting a series of research grants to try and recover as much information as possible about the broch before it disappears completely.
Below is an artist’s reconstruction of what a broch would have looked like when in use. They were massive, multi-story structures that could be 10 meters or more in height.
When I made it back to the site, the weather was unbelievably lovely. Every day there seems to be something new to see and experience on this tiny island!