The ORCA Archaeology team are continuing work this week at the proposed SSEN Transmission sub-station in Finstown, Orkney.
The area of the dig is continuing to grow as more of the archaeology is uncovered. Trenches excavated last week have been extended to make one large area, while test trenches have discovered extensive midden (rubbish) deposits up to a depth of 0.6 metres.
Meanwhile the cist and associated features unearthed two weeks ago is the subject of detailed excavation by one of the team. The possible Bronze Age cist itself appears to be empty with no obvious contents, but the material partly filling the stone box has been packaged for later analysis.
Intriguing archaeology is also beginning to emerge across the whole area, with two possible domestic prehistoric structures being excavated on one of the mound summits. The full extent of the structures has been exposed, showing large flags and a sunken central area. Hand excavation of the occupation deposits and identification of the internal stonework is underway and should shed some light on the age and use of this possible prehistoric settlement.
The team have also been investigating the thick midden layers around the north and east sides of the mound. Midden is in effect an ancient rubbish dump and usually holds great interest for archaeologists as they contain a treasure trove (sometimes literally!) of items and remains which can give the team an understanding of every-day life at the site. The midden material at this site is very complex and close to the structures, which means that this area was occupied for a considerable length of time.
Even more interesting for the team was the discovery of pottery with Beaker-style decoration in one of the middens. The vessel was broken, but was recognisable as a style known in Orkney from other excavations and is always associated with domestic rather than funerary or ritual sites. These vessels date to the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age across Orkney.
Other members of the team have completed hand-dug trenches across the low earth bank apparently overlying a cobbled surface that runs around the ridge in the boggy, peaty ‘valley’ between the mounds. There will be more information on this extensive cobbled area as the dig progresses.
Further excavation has also revealed small stone heaps near the cist, with evidence of in situ burning under one of the stone heaps. Working out what this means in terms of what was going on around the cist is just one of the puzzles confronting the team.
The initial geophysical survey undertaken by ORCA Archaeology last year indicated that this site would contain extensive archaeological remains. The excavation phase of the investigation has more than confirmed this, and that the area contains possible archaeology dating back to the early Neolithic – the time of the first farmers in Orkney.
ORCA Archaeology were commissioned by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) to commence archaeology excavation at the site of the proposed new sub-station at Finstown.
Orkney is recognised to be at the forefront of the rapidly expanding renewable sector in the UK. The proposed Finstown Substation will form part of the multi-million pound Orkney Transmission Connection and Infrastructure project which aims to reinforce the electricity transmission connection between the renewable energy providers on the islands and the mainland of 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.