Smerquoy Excavation 2015 – Week One

A general view of the trench, showing the cut for feature two in the foreground, with Duncan investigating an entranceway, and the water pit on the left. In the background can be seen the curve of collapsed walling of a stone building.

A general view of the trench, showing the cut for feature two in the foreground, with Duncan investigating an entranceway, and the water pit on the left. In the background can be seen the curve of collapsed walling of a stone building.

It’s been two years since the last Smerquoy site diary entry — the season of the “Smerquoy Hoose” – an early Neolithic stone house whose primary construction and use were carbon dated to around 3200BC.

As part of the excavations in 2013, we also opened a small trench further up slope to investigate a concentration of surface finds and anomalies on the magnetometer plot. This upper trench was investigated and extended last year.

By the end of last year’s season, we had uncovered what appeared to be the remains of two possible structures and a series of water channels.

At the moment, we have four main features in the trench.

The eastern most feature (we’re calling it Structure Two at the moment, but it will soon be more imaginatively named) consists of a levelled terrace cut into the natural glacial till near the base of the hillside. It can be seen in the foreground of the photograph.

The feature seems to be around the same size and shape as the Smerquoy Hoose excavated in 2013, but there is little evidence of stonework so far and there was very little stone in the plough soil.

It is possible that we may have the remains of a turf/timber structure and that when we reach a lower level we will find evidence of postholes. Equally though, there is the possibility that the stone has been extensively robbed out.

the entranceway at the north-west corner of feature two. The cut forming the terrace in the natural till at the base of the slope can be seen in the background.

The entranceway at the north-west corner of feature two. The cut forming the terrace in the natural till at the base of the slope can be seen in the background.

At the northern end of the west side of the house, Gordon has been investigating a possible entranceway, which corresponds with the side entrance in the Smerquoy Hoose.

The entrance has stonework in situ and cuts where other stones have been pulled out.

The extent to which this house was turf, timber or stone will hopefully be resolved through further excavation.

The hope is that occupation deposits and internal features will be preserved within the cut terrace, particularly at the south-east end.

On the south side of the trench (off the left of the photograph) another feature — now known as Ali’s Hoose — of a similar shape has also been partly defined and will be further investigated in the next few days. It has so far produced much pottery and Skaill knives.

The collapsed outer casing of the stone building (Billy's Hoose) on the left. Between the rubble and the trowellers can be seen a line of stones forming the inner wall face. Billy, the landowner at Smerquoy, on the right, joins the excavation most days.

The collapsed outer casing of the stone building (Billy’s Hoose) on the left. Between the rubble and the trowellers can be seen a line of stones forming the inner wall face. Billy, the landowner at Smerquoy, on the right, joins the excavation most days.

Interestingly, upslope of these features are a series of shallow channels to direct water run-off.

One channel running from behind Structure Two would have directed water into a large scoop on the east side of Ali’s Hoose.

In the lower part of the scoop, there are two possible drains, which may have directed water into Ali’s Hoose. The relationship of these features and the channels may mean they are contemporary with each other.

In the north-west of the trench, an arc of stone spread represents the remains of the collapsed outer casing of a stone wall.

Within the arc we have the lower course(s) of the inner faces of two slightly curving walls forming the corner of a building. The stonework is reminiscent of the Smerquoy Hoose.

Chris Gee

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