With the turf laid back and the archeologists away, we thought it would be a good time to look back at all the exciting finds that have been uncovered over the past two weeks.
And don’t forget, even though the excavation has finished, all these finds and more are currently on display in the community workshop at Timespan. Come along and have a closer look!
The group working on the trench over the longhouse found some of the first finds of the dig, uncovering piece after piece of pottery. Finding pottery can be really useful as further research can reveal the actual pottery where the pieces were made and most importantly, can give us a date of manufacture.
As well as pottery, the second day also revealed the cobbled floor in the longhouse. It is unusual because it is in what is thought to be the domestic part of the buildings but cobbled flooring is more usually associated with the animal byre.
The prize find of day four was an iron cooking cauldron broken into pieces which was found in the longhouse. In this image, you can see one of the three tripod legs that allowed it to sit on the ground or over the fire. The vegetation and soil inside the pot will not be cleaned as it might be possible to recover residue from its last contents.
One of the most discussed finds from the site has been this piece of copper – could it be from an illicit whisky still?
Dr Keir Strickland, excavation leader, posted a picture of a whisky still from Glenlivet to our Facebook page, commenting that “the bottom of this still bears a certain resemblance.”
These two pieces of earthenware tin glazed pottery were found in the longhouse. They fit together nicely and the complete plate had a hand painted scallop edge decoration around the rim.
These large shards of decorated pottery comes from a small bowl, commonly called a brose or porridge bowl. They have hand painted lines around the rim and base and a rather unusual sponge print repeated pattern around the body.
We posted a picture to our Facebook page and asked if anyone could help us identify the pattern. Paul Goodhall asked “Could the sponge print’s been made from using a plant like heather or small ferns?” and Fiona MacKay thought it looked like sphagnum moss but it was Anne Murray who solved the mystery, suggesting it could be Mochaware, a method of glazing that was invented in Staffordshire in the 1790’s, before posting an image of a Mochaware mug which has very similar detailing.
As well as lots of pottery finds, there has been an interesting array of glass finds, including this rather nice neck bottle. This part of the bottle is a good diagnostic characteristic and should provide an accurate date for its production. it appears to have a sheared top with applied lip.
This near complete clay pipe was found by NOSAS member Marion. This is a very important find as it can be dated by experts and used as an indicator of when the longhouse was in use.
In the second week of the dig, we were still finding pottery pieces, including these hand painted pottery shards. Anne Murray, identifier of our Mochaware, had some interesting ideas here too, suggesting that the green flower center “could be a dab of copper dotted on over the lead glaze just before it’s fired”.
This beautiful clay pipe bowl was found in the building at right angles to the longhouse. It’s quite stunningly embossed with a shield, rider on horseback and the letters EDINBURGH are written along the top. Even the moulded seam is highly decorative.
This metal object was the subject of much discussion on our Facebook page after we asked for suggestions as to its use. Chris Halliday thought it could be an oil lamp, our friends at Birch Cottage guessed at a door latch and Fiona MacKay suggested it bore a resemblance to a can opener.
These are two of the more personal finds from the dig – a metal buckle and button. It’s these types of finds that really bring the story of the people of the Clearances alive!
At the start of the dig we really didn’t know how much we might find but what we have found has definately exceeded any expectations. Thanks go, of course, to the team of archaeologists who led the excavation and also to our fantastic volunteers from the Helmsdale community and beyond without whom none of this would have been possible.