• Aerial view of The Cairns excavation, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

Excavation work underway at The Cairns

Archaeologists have been back in action at a very special site in South Ronaldsay this month.

The team from the UHI Archaeology Institute has been busy uncovering more secrets from The Cairns, a fascinating Iron Age excavation overlooking Windwick Bay on the east coast of the island.

Work here began in 2006 and over the years the efforts have revealed a large broch and other structures dating from the Iron Age right through to the Norse period.

The last season of fieldwork here was in 2019 after two pauses for the covid pandemic and a late postponement in 2022.

Experts were back on site a fortnight ago and the focus is very much on excavating the interior of the broch building. Previous work here has revealed beautiful glass beads, metal jewellery, and the incredible ‘Cairns Cog’, a wooden bowl found in a well in the broch itself. More of the broch village is being investigated too.

Already this year find have included a whalebone, a full red deer antler, stone tools and pottery fragments.

The dig is home to a multinational team, a mix of veterans, students, and volunteers.

The time has flown by and a whole new world has opened up beneath my feet. There’s a feeling that we’re building a picture of life in Iron Age Orkney.
Neil Barker, a BA (Hons) Scottish History and Archaeology Student

Visitors are always welcome at The Cairns, with the site open to the public on weekdays between 10am and 4pm until the dig comes to a close on July 7th. There will be a special open day on Friday June 30th between 10.30am and 4pm.

The UHI Archaeology Institute website has a daily dig diary from The Cairns, and you can also keep up-to-date with the project on Facebook and Twitter.

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