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Final season of digging at Cantick
Posted on 29 November 2011
Dan Lee, Project Officer with Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) has kindly sent us his report of the excavations which occured at Roeburry earlier this year. The SFLPS assisted the project by providing funding for training and we are really pleased that students and volunteers gained such valuable experience through the training days.
I'm delighted to include Dan's report here.
Final season of excavation at Roeberry Barrow, Cantick, reveals early secrets of the mound.
Excavations at Roeberry Barrow (c11.5m by 1.2m max), Cantick, South Walls, were concluded this season revealing the early phases of construction. It turns out that the mound started life as a Neolithic chambered tomb, was used for cremation burials in cists in the Bronze Age and finally had an Iron Age square barrow built into the top.
Trainee Andrea finds the end of the tomb. (c) ORCA
The team from ORCA, led by Project Officer Dan Lee, were joined by a number of trainees that have been participating in the archaeology training programme funded by the Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme. Trainees will also be involved in the post-excavation activities for the site. This year the trench was extended to the east to further investigate the partly excavated central stone lined cist and expose the edge of the large central area to the north that was defined by substantial orthostats. This rubble filled depression was previously thought to represent a large disturbed central cist.
Remains of inhumation in the central square barrow cist. (c) ORCA
Excavations this season revealed that the first phase of the monument consisted of a small stalled Neolithic tomb measuring c.3m by 2m internally with six large orthostats forming two opposing pairs of stalls. The tomb was aligned NE-SW with an entrance to the NE (unexcavated). The concentric external stone revetment walls exposed during the previous seasons formed the outside of the tomb (c.10m in diameter). The large central depression that was partly excavated last season turned out to be the robbed remains of the NW cell, and the inner wall had been removed. The tomb was not fully excavated and this stall was the only part to be investigated at floor level and no human remains were recovered. A possible post-hole was discovered below the robbed internal wall line, perhaps representing a construction marker, and charcoal was recovered for dating. Several cists were inserted into the mound when the Neolithic tomb had been backfilled. The cists contained cremation burials and probably date to the Bronze Age. A third cist (c.0.80 x 0.49 x 0.62m), which had been inserted into the top of the backfilled tomb entrance, was discovered this season. The cist had previously been disturbed and there was no evidence of a cremation burial. Unburnt human bone was found within the loose backfill, but could have been incorporated during disturbance.
Neolithic tomb cell and square barrow central cist. (c) ORCA
The key discovery this season was the remains of an inhumation burial in the central cist. This relates to the substantial stone constructed square barrow that was built into the mound. The insertion of this cist involved removing and breaking several large orthostats and cutting into the backfilled Neolithic tomb. The central inhumation had been disturbed, most likely by antiquarians, and only the hands and feet remained in situ. The body was crouched and laid on the left side. The remains of a juvenile inhumation, also crouched and placed on the left side, was found outside the central cist to the NE within a layer of rubble. The unburnt human bone found across the mound, especially in the north cist and around the central cist, probably derives from these disturbed burials. The remains of the neonate burials found in 2009 to the SW of the central cist could also date to this phase. These burial rites and the square barrow architecture suggests that this phase of the monument dates to the Iron Age and possibly the first few centuries AD. This seasons excavations have confirmed the long history of construction and burial at Roeberry Barrow from the Neolithic to Iron Age, and portrays the monument as a significant place for the communities at Cantick for several millennia.
Excavating the remains of a juvenile burial. (c) ORCA
Posted on 29 November 2011