Days 5 and 6 – Wind, Sand and Visitors!

Friday started with the discovery that our marquee had suffered heavily from the onslaught of wind and rain overnight, with many poles bent or disconnected and the whole thing in a state of partial collapse.  But thanks to the skills of our intrepid and indefatigable Canadian woodsman Michael, all was soon well.  With fallen branches, hatchet and duct tape, he fashioned splints and supports for our poor battered structure and assured it was still standing at the end of a very windy Saturday.  It is however now as much a hut as a tent!

Excavation continued on Friday, with trenches A and B now showing the full depth of the ditch (fortunately just at the limit of what is permitted under health and safety regulations for working at depth), Trench C being extended to the south to investigate the apparent bank outside the ditch, and Trench D to the north starting to reveal intriguing possibilities.

The main excitement from the excavation was the discovery of a fragment of a saddle quern in one of the layers within the ditch in Trench A.  Querns were used to grind grain to make flour.  To use a saddle quern you would sit down with the stone between your thighs (hence the name) and draw an upper rubbing stone backwards and forwards across it to grind your grain.  They were in use throughout the early Iron Age, but in the north east things were different from the rest of Scotland (as they so often are) – saddle querns were still in widespread use around 300AD, so they are common in sites with dates long after they stopped being used elsewhere.  While this extends the potential dating period for our quern fragment by 400 years, sadly we still can’t claim it gives a date for our ditch as it was found among a jumble of other stones and may simply nave been seen by the ditch diggers as a convenient stone among many others….  What we still need is organic material that can be radiocarbon dated to give us (reasonably) accurate dates for the construction of the ditch.

Geophysical survey continued throughout Friday and Saturday and is starting to produce results that hint at possible further targets for digging holes in things – we shall see what we can accomplish..

Saturday was quiet on the excavation side of things, with less volunteers than usual and work concentrating on cleaning up what hat already been done to ready it for photography and drawing, but it was a day with a difference!  Piping at Forres was on and we had a stall at the event and ran hourly tours for interested visitors.  Feedback was good, and the stall (staffed nobly by slightly bemused American Christine) had over 200 visitors over the course of the day.  We worked with the sound of the pipes ringing constantly in our ears – a unique experience that I will never forget.







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