Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Orkney midden reveals insight on feast which took place 2,000 years ago

Post Thumbnail

Analysis of a midden has uncovered evidence of a great open air feast taking place at an archaeological site in Orkney 2,000 years ago.

The Cairns dig is situated on a wild and wind-swept cliff above Windwick Bay in South Ronaldsay.

It a research and training excavation for the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and has provided many insights into ordinary life in Iron Age Orkney.

Dates have become available this week which have been obtained from measuring the amount of carbon in some of the dead animals found in the midden.

The information gives archaeologists a glimpse into a new episode in the life of this site nearly two thousand years ago, in what is known as the Middle to Late Iron Age.

The Cairns is known for the remains of an Iron Age broch, but also increasingly for a post broch metal working area in which a collection of 60 metal working moulds, remains of furnaces, crucibles and further evidence of considerable metal working were unearthed in 2017 . This included high status jewellery objects such as bronze pins and brooches. A huge midden of animal bones and broken pots lies adjacent and partly covers this metal working area.

Radiocarbon analysis of the midden suggests that it was created in the AD240s to AD 300s and further investigation of the deposits points to a great feast event being held on the spot at a time after the broch fell into disuse. This was a time of great social change in northern Scotland and was contemporary to the mid and late Roman period further south.

Martin Carruthers, site director and programme leader for MSc Archaeological Practice at the UHI Archaeology Institute, said: “We may be looking at how the social structure of an evolving Iron Age society worked. Using jewellery-making and sharing at a large social event as a mechanism to unite a community and define a social hierarchy. This whole assemblage gives us an intriguing insight into the possible social structure of Middle to Late Iron Age society in northern Scotland.”

He goes on to propose that, in the absence of brochs, open air feasting could have been a method in which evolving Iron Age society expressed “identity and solidarity”.

A large rectangular building is also present at the site, partly covering the remains of the broch. This imposing building was also present in the same period as the feasting event and perhaps represents the residence of a powerful household who organised the production and distribution of the valuable jewellery pieces.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]