(Thanks to Jen Valentine for this post).
Wednesday afternoon and Thursday last week saw the start of the specialist environmental aspect of the Broch excavation with some of the bone and deposit samples being looked at.
AOC’s Environmental Archaeologist, Jack, started with a wet sieving session on Wednesday afternoon. On the bank of the burn running onto Stoer beach, sun shining (honestly) volunteers worked with Jack to start the process of sieving some of the many samples taken from site. Immediately the mud rinsed away and wonderful deposits of burned grains, charcoal and other organic material emerged.
On Thursay at Stoer Hall, Jack then brought along these sieved samples, some bone from site and comparative bones from sheep, deer, cattle and rabbits.
Numerous piece of bone samples were washed off and revealed themselves. This included a beautifully sawn and cut marked massive deer antler (see picture). Other worked bone was found which had been hollowed out and a hole drilled at one end to be used as a handle for some tool. Most of the bones showed that they had been cracked open to get to the marrow. Shells were also identified, mainly from limpets, whelks and winkles but also solitary oyster and mussel shells.
At the session volunteers were able to identify bones and teeth from cattle, pig, red deer, sheep/goats and rabbit. There was a curious, vicious looking jaw bone that initially alluded identification, but luckily the local ranger Ros was on hand and soon it was confirmed as the jaw and sharp teeth of a common seal!
Grain and charcoal from the sieving was examined under a micro scope. The majority of the grain was identified by volunteers as barley, however one grain of oat was also identified! Maybe they did have oatcakes along with their barley bannocks.
From the charcoal, Jack was able to identify Alder and Hazel.
All of the finds and samples will now be taken to AOC’s office for processing and there may be a chance for a workshop for sieving and identification again in a few months. Watch this space.
The residents of the Broch seem to have a varied and rich meat diet with barley a plenty.