by Roelie - 21:33 on 09 August 2014


On an archaeology walking holiday last year, I met an interesting couple from Cromarty who told me about the possibility of a large community excavation in the village, so if I wanted to come and ‘help’ out, I would be more than welcome.

Of course, a community excavation is right up my street, having participated in several in the local Oxfordshire area, and always enjoyed them tremendously.

When the timing looked right I sent an email to the contact address on the website which seemed to have disappeared in a deep sondage. Even a phone call did not have the expected result immediately.     However, after a slightly tetchy email a couple of days before the actual start, I received a very positive reply. This, of course, was totally due to the delay in the confirmation of funding, not disarray in the administration!

So, made the flight reservation, booked the car, accepted the offer for accommodation and travelled up north mid-July. The Cromarty hospitality was overwhelming, both by hosts and at the dig.  

Obviously, an unknown quantity has to be tested archaeologically, so lots of ‘cleaning’ and changes of locations during the first week, but finally, during the last week, there was an area I could get my trowel really in! Needless to say, it was trying to get the wattle off the floor area in ‘Mary’s house’ – looking at the burnt area. It was hard, but we – John and I, did it. We finally found a clear pit cut,  the wattle disappearing under the burnt area with more stones making an appearance. Interpretation, as usual, was not easy and I happily left the final decision with Mary!

It was great on site – conversations, as usual, were varied and interesting – from comparisons of Sampsons to Middlemarch, Nevil Shute to Proust – unrepeatable place-names of interesting digs and many other subjects that now escape me. Learned a new technique to excavate large lumps of charcoal, local pottery, glass and animal bone – what an opportunity!

And I have to mention the cakes - the variety and quantities were overwhelming. I managed to resist eating too much for at least 2 days and then just succumbed to the delicacies – normally I lose weight during the summer digs, but not this time.

The weather was unusual for Scotland I was told as it was great most of the time. Unfortunately, the day of the BBQ was rather windy and wet, but it was interesting to see and talk to that many people I met over the two weeks of my visit. I tried to talk and thank all the people but, undoubtedly, missed out a few, but a BIG THANK YOU to all for an absolutely interesting and great time.


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