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Iron Age cup and whale bone revealed as 2024 Swandro dig gets underway


Iron Age soapstone cup

The 2024 Knowe of Swandro archaeological dig begins today (June 17).

Archaeologists from the University of Bradford, who have been travelling to the Orkney dig site for over a decade, revealed a number of objects recovered from the 2023 dig, including an Iron Age cup and a huge whale vertebra.

Archaeologist holding Iron Age cup

Dr Stephen Dockrill: "We're very excited here at Swandro HQ, as we're back on site for the start of our 2024 excavation season, running through until the August 9. As usual we'll be doing a daily dig diary on our website so you can follow our progress."

Archaeologists working on a dig site

The Iron Age cup is made of soapstone, while the whale vertebra was one of two, each set either side of the hearth in one of the rooms of an Iron Age roundhouse, currently being excavated. The two whale vertebra had been carefully hollowed out to form sockets to hold uprights supporting a spit across the fire. 

Person holding whale verterba

Both whale bone and cup could be up to 2,500 years old.

The dig on Orkney has dubbed a race against tide and time because the site sits right on the shoreline and it currently being eroded by the sea, and recently won Current Archaeology magazine's Rescue Project of the Year.

Dr Dockrill said they would be updating their blogsite on a daily basis.