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Tresness 21 Update week 2-3

Tresness Week 2-3

top- 3D model of the round Bronze Age cairn bottom-3d model of early Neolithic rectangular cairn

The Orcadian weather has been kind to us this year and as a consequence great progress has been made. I think it’s fair to say The dig Director Professor Vicki Cummings UCLan Research Centre for Field Archaeology and Forensic Taphonomy is pleased with the progress and the work the UCLan students have put in. There have been some 120 plus contexts and upwards of 280 small finds including the TWO polished stone balls that really has caused a great deal of interest on social media. A more typical array of lithics (Ard points, Pot lids, Skail Knives and hammerstones etc), ceramics and both human and faunal remains have also been found. Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark will be posting a blog here on the lithics assemblages, so look out for that.

A selection of the finds drying

The team have been working in three distinct areas the main chamber of the tomb, the trench extension that is looking to understand the phasing of the surrounding cairn structure and the smaller trench that is positioned to understand the passage. 

Part of the Tresness 21 team. From left to right Emma, Katie, Dom, Sarah, Tish, Tony, Aiden and Lewis.

The main chamber – This area as expected is both complex and confined in terms of space for excavators. Dr Sam Walsh the projects Oesteoarchaeologist has spent her time unpicking the complexities of the chamber and its cells. Human remains have been discovered but as yet not in any great amount. Sam will be penning a blog specifically about her work and I will post it on these pages when available. Importantly for the UCLan student on this dig Sam has had a rota of students working in this area and they have enjoyed the experience – particularly the ones interested in human remains. 

The cairn extension – This has been the area most of the students have been working on. We have been able to understand the phasing and construction techniques of the cairn. The Bronze age addition of a round cairn and the earlier cairn have been uncovered and have been beautifully depicted in the 3D photogrammetry models.

The Passage – This area is also quiet complex with a number of contexts now down into the Neolithic phase. There have been a number of finds including Roe Deer antler, Skail knives, a pot lid and ceramics. The objective for the coming week is to identify how the specific layers relate to each other and in particular the main chamber (cell 4). 

Jill taking care excavating a Roe deer antler found in the passage fill. This has important radiocarbon dating potential.

Our second 3D model – The feedback following the posting of the first model this season just goes to show how useful and appreciated the use of the 3D photogrammetry models are. As well as being an excellent Archaeology public engagement tool it is also valuable for recording the progress of the project which will be used in the publication that will follow the fieldwork. You can see the progress by comparing the models. Week one really clearly shows the Bronze Age cairn (the rounded structure) 

We have now removed all of the Bronze Age cairn and this model shows the Neolithic monument. The second model (week 2.5) shows the rectangular cairn of the early Neolithic phase. The Bronze Age cairn truncated the Neolithic tomb, stripping its original surface and leaving it without a roof, but this allow us to see how the Neolithic monument was built. 

Many thanks to one of the Dig Directors Dr Anderson-Whymark for these exceptional interactive depictions of the progress. The second model was formed from 400 images taken on a Canon 750d.

So its not all work, an important part of UCLan field excavations are the trips that are built into the schedule. This week the team visited two sites where Neolithic archaeology is clearly visible in section or cliffs eroded by environmental change. It was a relaxed day with one of the students deciding to take a refreshing short cut by way of a paddle in the sea – rather her than me !

Katy taking a short cut on the way to see archaeology from the Neolithic to Norse.

As previously mentioned keep a look out for a number of further blogs, Vicki will be posting one on the phasing and structure of the monument, Sam will post on the human remains and Hugo on the Lithics discovered at the site. In addition we will have a personal blog from our students that will post about their experience in Orkney and on a UCLan excavation.

On a final note, id just like to say how delighted we have been to see so many visitors to the site this year. It just goes to prove how important local heritage is to people. Heres looking forward to the last phase of this project!


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