The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Mine Howe

Burial Chamber


On August 10th I had arrived at Mine Howe as the diggers were coming back from lunch and finally saw in trench E the ovoid structure found at the end of last year's dig, the neat blocks of an arc of wall at the 'back' and a few upright slabs dividing the 'front'. This was mostly used for the working of copper and copper alloy, with a hearth and a rather small furnce, and may never have stood any higher. It is behind the wall, fairly high up, that the flags were found that lay over the female skeleton.
A new area of the dig alongside being opened up is a long wedge, several metres long and several feet deep at its far end, in which there were only a few stones as yet. I later found out that this was a sounding that had revealed a former slope between the Mine Howe ditch and the site huts which had been filled with a midden consisting of bones and pottery fragments. Carinated pot on the site has pushed the date back to the end of the Early Iron Age.
The next day, having taken my camera this time, they were still having their lunch in front of the site huts. As I headed towards the diggings an officious woman strode out of the custodian's office and demanded to know what I was doing. Orcadian I thought, but definitely not a native or a blender. So I explained that I wasn't going onto the excavation, merely taking photos. Did I have permission she asked. Do I need it I said. This stumped her. Re-phrased my query twice and still no answer. So I turned to the diggers and asked them (bellowed rather, I must admit !). Either they couldn't understand me or they were simply flummoxed. From my two seasons on a dig I do know that there isn't usually a problem with taking photos except that sometimes technically copyright belongs with the excavators. Finished sites under ownership may have such a policy but it will be prominently displayed. Took my pictures but felt they would have been better the previous day, somehow an incorrect perspective to represent the structure's features fully. When I went back on the open day Jane Downes informed me that photograph taking is allowed but I am not allowed to post them to the Web.
At the top of the mound, away from the exposed ditch, to the right of the Mine Howe 'entrance' and a little beyond the main current excavation, is a smaa digging where I see many little round white pegs in a low square box of stone that looks like a metalworking hearth from the deposits inside - this is another rarity for the site, a miniature iron smelting furnace. It is a very fine structure that I hope you will eventually see on The Orcadian and Orkneyjar sites.
Fine recording of the dig will basically come to a full stop on Thursday, with mostly clearing up the next day.
wideford Posted by wideford
17th August 2004ce
Edited 27th August 2004ce

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