September 6th, 2014

Rachael is studying at Orkney College for a semster. So far it has been very exciting seeing Orkney through a new pair of eyes. As well as seeing Rachael’s first experiences of life in the UK.

August 21st, 2014

The Cairns 2014 - Structures F/H:

Structure H seems to at least partially overlay the entrance to Structure F, the souterrain. The souterrain was constructed after the broch was disused and filled in with rubble, but it appears to makes use of the old broch’s entrance passage to form the chamber of this souterrain. 


The photos are showing the excavation at various stages. Photo one is about half way through sampling Structure H floor surface which was a patchy clay worn away in certain places. We used ‘checkerboard' sampling.

We left the hearth sections in when we started working on Structure F. Structure F keeps getting more and more exciting but also more surprising. We didn’t expect the rubble on the right of photo 3. Sadly we had to leave it as seen, we’re very excited to get back to it next year and have already made plans.

August 20th, 2014

The Cairns 2014 - Structure B:

Structure B complex partially overlays the top of Structure A which is the broch. Structure B is currently the most modern structure on site but has been change and remodeled over time. The hearth is also the longest yet found on site, and archaeomagnetic dates put the last use of the hearth around the cusp of Viking arrival in Orkney. There has been many small finds in this structure including pottery, stone tools, gaming counter but the most unusual find is undoubtedly ‘Windwick Wullie’. 

The photos above show the excavation of the hearth in Structure B, the sections have attempted to get a good vertical stratigraphy for the feature and hopefully some useful materials for further analysis.

August 19th, 2014

The Cairns 2014 - Structure A:

Structure A in the Broch structure (aka Iron Age Atlantic Roundhouse) and is the oldest structure on site so far. It is also by far the largest at 22m in diameter, the walls alone at 5m thick. The thick outer walls contain at least 2 ‘intramural’ chambers and the remains of a staircase indicating that this was a multi-storey building. So far from the investigations of the interior some well-preserved internal fixtures and fittings have been uncovered as well as a series of floor deposits of laid clay and flagstones and a healthy rate of artefact finds.  

The cell shown in photo 3 is the smallest of the 2 known cells (although a third or even fourth is expected) and the space is small enough to only be decorative. In keeping with this decorative use the cell was lined with yellow clay which was then covered with red clay. 

August 18th, 2014

The Orkney International Science Festival starts on September 4th and runs until September 10th. There are always fantastic seminars and events and there’s something for everyone. 

July 31st, 2014
July 29th, 2014

Orkney dig dispels caveman image of ancestors



THE image of our Neolithic ancestors as simple souls carving out a primitive existence has been dispelled.

A groundbreaking excavation of a 5,000-year-old temple complex in Orkney has uncovered evidence to suggest that prehistoric people were a great deal more sophisticated than previously thought.

The archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar, which is still in its early stages, has already thrown up discoveries that archaeologists say will force us to re-evaluate our understanding of how our ancestors lived.

The picture that has emerged so far points to a complex and capable society that displayed impeccable workmanship and created an integrated landscape. Read more.

July 18th, 2014

A Map of the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney”, from a range of source maps, showing the known sites


A Map of the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney”, from a range of source maps, showing the known sites

July 14th, 2014
I think I’ve been spotted. 

I think I’ve been spotted. 

July 13th, 2014


This is the Ring Of Brodgar between the lochs of Harray and Stenness on mainland Orkney. The ring itself, the third biggest in Britain is just one of a number of ancient monuments in the immediate area, including the Ness of Brodgar “ritual centre”, Barnhouse Neolithic Village (which I think is very much like the Ness and not a settlement), The Standing Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe. I love Orkney. The whole archipelago is steeped in continuous history, and I’ve only seen the likes of it in Kilmartin on the West coast in Argyll. The scale of Orkney though. Amazing. 

I actually prefer the first preliminary image here, but that’s just me :-)

The Ness will start it’s first day of excavations tomorrow and will continue for 6 weeks. You can follow the site diary at the link above. 

Rik came to site a few times over the 4 week period and has produced some very interesting pieces of work from him time there.

Cows in a field just above my house, they were extremely inquisitive. 

The Cairns 2014

Well, that was a busy 3 weeks but I’ve enjoyed myself so much. We wrapped up the site on Friday and had an end of dig celebration and sadly it’s now all over for another year. I have 150 photos to organise before I start uploading them. 

This week I will be visiting the Ness of Brodgar but only as a visitor. I’m really looking forward to it.