Having half sectioned the pit feature on Tuesday, today we removed the remaining fill and discovered some very large, flattish, upright stones resting against the northern-most edge of the pit. The whole pit seems to have been lined with a layer of clay.
The pit after being fully excavated, viewed from the east
The jury is out on what these stones represent, and the overall function of the site, but we can state with some certainty that large amounts of water were being heated, perhaps for bathing. We’ll post more detailed results later, once we have radiocarbon dates and once other post-ex analyses have been conducted.
Today we continued excavating the central area of the mound to reveal the extent of the pit. Once the central baulks were removed we could make out the outline of the dark black deposit, and also see the large stones resting on top of the pit fill more clearly. These stones are not heat-shattered like the mound material, and were covered over with an orange clay layer.
The extent of the pit after the removal of the baulks
After revealing the extent of the pit, we began removing the fill material, starting with the south-eastern half of the material. A channel cut into the natural runs into the pit from the south-east. The pit it steep-sided, around 60cm deep, the glacial till forming the bottom – although the pit’s excavators dug down through the glacial till for around 10cm, which must have been very hard going!
The depth of the pit is revealed
Things have been getting very interesting on site today. At long last, the features in the centre of the mound have become much clearer and we have identified a large pit filled with an almost black, stony context. After thoroughly cleaning the site and taking photographs, we spent this afternoon recording the two sections (vertical faces) of both of the excavated quadrants, in which the layers overlying the pit are clearly visible. The pit contains a broadly circular arrangement of large stones which are particularly interesting as they are not heat-shattered like the mound material.
The site viewed from the north. You can see the large pit in the centre, currently obscured by the baulks – but not for much longer!
Tomorrow we will remove the baulks that currently cross the pit. Then we will be able to excavate the pit itself – and who knows what we’ll find!
Recording the sections
We’ve been digging with volunteers since Wednesday, and today was especially busy due to ‘Music Through the Ages’, a celebration of music through time. With over 60 visitors to site, we demonstrated hot stone technologies to quite a crowd, baked a trout in local clay (from Clachtoll) in the fire and gave everyone a tour of the site. We’ve made a great deal of progress since our last post, having divided the site into four quarters and excavated the SW and NE quadrants in earnest. The burnt mound in fact comprises three discrete mounds of heat shattered stones, in the centre of and overlying which lies a layer of light red-orange clay. On top of this clay lay a small, round-ish burnt feature – samples have been collected for dating.
The site currently fits the burnt mound model in that it shows evidence for the heating of stones, without any evidence for settlement and habitation. However the function of the site remains elusive, and may well remain so. The next few days will determine whether or not the central area contains any further evidence that may help us understand this site better.
Hard at work at Stronechrubie