Caithness Archaeological Project: Excavations at Everley Broch, Freswick. (News & Notes)

Article excerpt

Despite its rich and varied nature the archaeological record of Caithness remains peripheral to wider interpretations of the British Iron Age. Furthermore, information from antiquarian excavations in Caithness continues to be ignored. The Caithness Archaeological Project was initiated in June 2000 with the first stage focussing on the re-analysis of the numerous Iron Age Atlantic roundhouses (or brochs) first excavated by Sir Francis Tress Barry between 1890 and 1904 (Anderson 1901). The project involves re-analysis of existing collections, survey of upstanding remains and limited excavation (see Heald & Jackson forthcoming and http://www, arcl.ed.ac.uk/ arch/caithness/for full project design).

Excavations were begun at Everley roundhouse and, on a more limited scale, at Whitegate broch at Keiss in July 2001. Today, Everley comprises a mound some 120 m east-west and 50 m north-south, rising approximately 2.5 m above the modern land surface. Earthworks are visible on the eastern side. Apart from a short reference by Anderson (1901) little is known of the original excavations; only a few photographs from Barry's 1897 excavation exist and some finds survive, including Roman pottery of 1st- and 3rd-century AD date. Two primary objectives for the first season were to characterize the roundhouse structure since the site has never been planned, and to evaluate the nature of Barry's investigations. These were met with the exposure of a section of broch wall and part of the interior. A narrow cut was observed following the exterior wall face; consistent with Barry's wall chasing at other sites, this trench truncated structures built against the broch wall, and produced 19th-century finds. The broch wall rose three courses from the bottom of this cut; precisely the number Anderson recorded for the height of the broch wall. However, although Anderson believed this represented the broch's full height, the present height of the mound and the excavated depth of the broch interior indicates that this cannot be the case. There are clearly unexcavated deposits in the exterior. Excavations in the interior showed that Barry stopped at an arbitrary Iron Age floor level; he did not reach primary levels. Two hearths remained, one with in situ whale vertebrae. Iron Age pottery, stone and metal objects were recovered from the associated floor. Discovery of a collapsed corbelled roof below this floor provides additional evidence of remaining in situ archaeology.

An additional objective was to verify the existence of external settlement. A trench from the roundhouse exterior exposed a rectilinear structure with an earth floor and hearth. …