Swartigill Burn Site

The Swartigill Burn, the Black Hole Burn in old Norse has a story to tell. Like all good stories the burn has a beginning, a middle and an end. Let's start at the middle, a wide flat floodplain contained between two high banks. On the north side the burn runs along the edge of the floodplain, below a medieval farmstead. It was not always so, and probably took a route on the opposite side, which also has along abandoned farmstead.

Where we started

Members of the Yarrows Trust had spotted some stonework eroding

out of the burn, and decided to investigate, as the burn in spate had dislodged some stone. 

On cleaning back a small area, we unexpectedly recovered a large assemblage of pottery from Early to Late Iron Age in date.  Some of

the rim shards were everted using the thumb impressions of the

potter, A human  touch across two millennia.

 ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for  Archaeology) and UHI

(University of the Highlands and Islands have contributed much

time and resources to the project.

We have received funding from local funds including:

Lybster and Tannach Informal Learning Fund,

Foundation Scotland through the local Camster and the

Tannach and District Funds.

2014            Geophysical Survey

In 2014, a geophysical survey of part of the floodplain revealed an extensive area of  possible interconnecting dwellings

Year 2            2015 Excavation

A small scale study was undertaken over 5 days, to inform future, more expansive work on the site.  This very  modest exercise produced more decorated pottery, a quern rubber, a hammer stone, and a possible item  of personal adornment made of copper alloy.  Structural remains suggested by the Geophys were confirmed as wall faces.

Year 3               2016 Excavation

Further work to reveal the supposed sub-rectangular building suggested by the Geophys.  During the course of this, a large drain feature was exposed, skirting the outside of the wall face.  It would seem to indicate water management beyond that required for normal domestic purposes.

Year 4              2017 Excavation

This years excavation revealed more significant and well-preserved structural features. A 10th or 11thC whetstone was recovered, suggesting Viking age activity post-dating the demise of the site.

Year 5             2018 Excavation

Further investigation of the site, now considerably enlarged, comprising 3 major structures, labelled A,, a  passage feature, B ,  a large sub-rectangular building and C, partially revealed to the south of Structure B. Another structure, through which the burn now cuts will be separately study.

Year 6              2019 Excavation

It now appears that structure C may be the earliest structure on the site. Structure B appears to have been modified throughout its life.

Traces of a further structure, D,  are beginning to appear  in the SW corner of the trench.  2 very fine hone stones,  of prehistoric date were recovered

Swartigill dig