The team from Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology entered week two of the Papa Westray community archaeology project with the sun shining and the wind dropping to a moderate gale force.
Back on the island, Frank Forrester, our placement student from the University of Bradford, continues the story of the project..........
"Arriving on Papa for my second week, we only had one final site to complete: St.Boniface/ Munkerhoose. One of the aims of the project was to place St. Boniface in context within its wider landscape. This meant in practice completing an survey of the fields surrounding the site in order to produce a topographical survey. This involved a walk over the land using a GPS, measuring the height of of the land."
Frank continues, "Following instruction from the ORCA team I soon found that it was important to cover all of the site systematically, which was best done by simply walking back and fore, in the same spacing. I ran a tape measure out on one side of the field, and another in line at the opposite end - giving me a line to walk. My thanks must go to Rick who taught me how to work the GPS and set me off to work walking up and down three fields."
Finally, "Adding the modern structures that are on the land was also important as it helps to tie in the topographic survey to the coastal survey and the OS maps. This is done by taking key points of the structures, such as corners and changes in wall lines.
However, this surveying was fairly challenging as gale force winds would blow me off course. This was all worth it though, as the topographic map that has been produced through my surveying gives a great representation of the area."
Thanks to Frank for taking the time to write about his experiences on the Papa Westray project.
The team from the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology continued with the Papa Westray baseline assessment of eroding coastal archaeology.
Accompanied by an intrepid band of local volunteers, they battled through the rain, sleet and snow to finish the work.
University of of Bradford work placement student Frank Forrester continues the story....."On the third day we were back working at Kings Craig/Whitehowe, completing more surveying work. This included a photo record of the site, highlighting its current state, and tying in the samples taken and key features. We also found a bone pin, which was literally poking out of the section. This was a very exciting find because it adds to the artefact record and provides an insight into the culture of the people that once lived at the site. A detailed analysis back at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Institute will confirm its age and type of animal bone.
"Our fourth day involved the team finishing off some of the surveying at Cott/Shorehouse before moving on to our third and final site St.Boniface/Munkerhoose.
This site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument that is on the west coast, just north of the twelfth-century St. Boniface church. The site was first investigated in 1998 and showed a roundhouse, situated in a mass of other structure features. However, due to the location of the site, erosion has already resulted in a large section being lost to the sea.
We completed a walk over survey in order to record how much has been lost, and locate features that are still recognisable from the first investigation.
During the fifth and final day, Dr James Moore, Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute; joined us to complete a drone photographic survey of the site. This was exciting for me as it was the first time I had seen a drone work on an archaeological site. This work was very useful as it allowed us to obtain a fantastic digital record of the site in a very short amount of time."
The week had one final card to deal Frank.....the weather was progressively getting worse as the week progressed. Howling wind mixed with snow, sleet and rain hammered against the windows of the departure lounge on Papa Westray as he waited for his flight home. Can you imagine his delight as he saw the small plane start to approach the airstrip, only to be cruelly dashed as the pilot judged it too dangerous to land and flew back to Kirkwall. Frank was left marooned on the island for another night, but it did give him the opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of Papa Westray for a little while longer.
The first week of the community archaeology baseline assessment project in Papa Westray is now over.
The ORCA team had to contend with bitterly cold weather, snow, hail and finally sunshine in the week as they worked with the community volunteers surveying and recording the eroding archaeology present around the coastline of the island. Our work placement student from Bradford University, Frank Forrester, continues the story....
"I arrived at Papa Westry airport at midday, before being picked up by my two colleagues and driving to our first site, Cott/Shorehouse. This site has a series of exposed structures jutting from the coastal section, under a mound that is visible from the surface above. The costal section has a heavy mixture of modern material, as it is situated next to a farm. I was put to work sketching the section, so that it can be used to better understand the site for the writing up of the report. Afterwards I worked with community volunteers to collect some samples that were prominent within the section.
This is important because hopefully we can use these samples to obtain dates from the site, which will give us a greater understanding of the age of the Cott/Shorehouse site. Rick later surveyed in these samples once they were tagged so they could be related to the survey. "
Frank continues,"On our second day we moved onto the second site, Kings Craig/Whitehowe. This site has a deep coastal section ranging from 1 to 5m deep, with the deepest section being below the current Whitehowe farmstead. The archaeology that is visible, ranges from the glacial till at the bottom, through shell middens, agricultural soils to possible Norse structures. The majority of the site was too high for us to be able to take samples and some were covered by pushed over soil. However, from the sections that were accessible we were able to take samples, with volunteer help, which will help give us a better idea for dating the site."
Check out the next blog post for Days 3, 4 and 5 .....when some exciting finds began to be unearthed.
The project was funded by Historic Environment Scotland.
This blog has been created by Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology in beautiful Orkney. We aim to add features and news about our work on the islands and further afield on a regular basis.