15/06/18 – Goodbye (For Now!)

The sun sets not only on our accommodations at Blackhills Estate, but also on the 2018 excavation season. We hoped these blog posts were as fun to read as they were to write! Although we will no longer have daily updates for you on the progress of the Covesea Caves Project, please watch this space for occasional updates

Today was mostly spent on clearing out our excavation equipment from the Covesea Caves – thankfully for our team, the amazing mountaineering expert Kevin Rutherford has been able to lift most of the heavier equipment out of the caves using rope! Excavation was technically finished yesterday with the backfilling of Laird’s Stables. To celebrate, the excavation team treated themselves to some delicious – and well deserved! – ice cream.

Our final Find of the Day is…a bone fragment. Underwhelming? Maybe, but it’s not just any bone fragment…it’s a bone fragment with the initials of one of the project’s co-directors! In a bizarre moment during bone cleaning, what appears to be the letters “IA” chopped into the bone. Does this mean co-director Professor Ian Armit is a time traveller? The mystery continues!

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14/06/18 – Finishing Touches

Well, it’s our second to last day in the trenches and…well, there’s not much to write home about. At least, nothing that interesting. With tomorrow being our last day of work, our excavation team spent most of today backfilling our trenches and clearing our Laird’s Stables. As for recovered finds, most have been small faunal bones (bird, fish, rodent, etc.) with the occasional deer bone.

Our newest guest, Kristina Wolfe, has continued her work recording the surrounding environment of the Covesea Caves as part of her post-doctoral fellowship project at the University of Huddersfield, the VRAASP Project. You can learn more about her project here.

Today’s Find of the Day is another gorgeous piece of flint from the Covesea Caves.

13/06/18 – Cave Concerts

Our excavation continues onward in Laird’s Stables. Despite the small size of the cave, the team has been making considerable progress in uncovering exciting new finds that may change how we interpret the use of this cave in the past. Stay tuned for more updates as we round up this excavation season!

Today we welcomed our newest guest, University of Huddersfield postdoc Kristina Wolfe! Although not part of the Covesea Caves Project, Kristina Wolfe is also doing work on the caves here, specifically the Sculptor’s Cave, as part of her VRAASP Project. This project uses “virtual reality and archaeo-acoustic analysis to study and exhibit presence”; you can learn more about it here and on Kristina Wolfe’s website.

Today’s Find of the Day is another example of the amazing stone working found at the cave sites: it’s a piece of worked flint!

12/06/18 – Dark Caves and Sunny Beaches

Our excavation team is continuing their work in our final cave of the 2018 season, Laird’s Stables. It’s one of the smallest of the Covesea Caves, with the end of the cave narrowing down into a tunnel that requires our team members to work while crouched on the floor. The darkness of the cave has also become a bit of an issue – our team is equipped with work lights and head torches, but once they run out of power, it’s time to end the work day.

Outside the cave, on the other hand, is a completely different story! When the team is on break, they get a lovely view of the coastline, complete with this giant stone arch that our Digitalisation and Visualisation team scanned and turned into a 3D model (hopefully more on that soon!).

After a big lunch and a few hours of hard work, it’s pretty difficult not to want to take a nap while listening to the calming noise of the waves.

Although the cave is dark, sometimes cramped, and quite cold, our excavation team has been in pretty good spirits and enjoying our last week together. I mean, look how happy we look in our little tunnel!

Well, I mean…look how happy I look.

Today’s Find of the Day – well, it’s actually Finds of the Day. These are two beautiful boar tusks that were recovered from one of our trenches in Laird’s Stables!

11/06/18 – The Tiniest Little Cave

With the recent fire, our access to the last two caves has unfortunately been blocked off. Sounds ridiculous, but the burnt trees and shrubs are still smouldering! Helicopters were seen above site carrying water from the ocean to put out the remaining fires.

Fortunately, access to Laird’s Stables, a smaller cave near the other Covesea Caves, is still open to our excavation team! Passage to this cave is slightly easier than the other given the shorter walking distance, but there’s still a good amount of climbing involved! Luckily, we have our amazing mountaineering expert Kevin Rutherford with us to make sure we climb safely up and down.

Due to the smaller size of the cave, it was a bit of a tight fit for an excavation team of six people. I ended up in the very back of the cave to help with sieving; it was cold, dark, and small…yet somehow slightly cozy?

As this is our last week of excavation, we will most likely finish up with Laird’s Stables, so fingers crossed we recover some interesting things! At least, other than the bones I ended up collecting off the beach – as the team’s zooarchaeologist, of course I’m going to add to my reference collection when I can!

Today’s Find of the Day is yet another amazing example of worked animal bone: it’s a bone pin.

10/06/18 – Its the Final Countdown!

Well, we’re just about at our last week excavating the Covesea Caves. Has it been nearly 3 weeks already? Today our team up excavation in Covesea Cave 1 and are preparing to work in the remaining caves for this final week.

Meanwhile in our “zooarchaeology lab“, detailed analysis is revealing a lot more about the remains that have been recovered by the excavation team. For example, more evidence of anthropogenic modification (for example, butchery) has been observed, which will be vital information for the overall interpretation of these sites.

The next few cave sites are relatively smaller than Covesea Cave 1 and 2, so there may be less “exciting” finds this week. However, there will still be a lot to learn from excavating and examine the stratigraphy of the sites.

Today’s Find of the Day is probably one of the more exciting artefacts that have been recovered: it’s a whetstone! Note the striations marked on the stone – this shows that it had been used many times in the past.

08/06/18 – Photobombed!

Today was a bit of a sad day as we said goodbye to our Visualisation and Digitisation (or is it the other way around?) team members. They’ve wrapped up their side of the project and are heading back to the University of Bradford – hopefully in due time we’ll be able to show you the finished product!

On their last day, the team did have some issues. But oddly enough, it wasn’t due to lugging all of their (expensive, heavy) equipment across boulders! The last two caves that they photographed and scanned, Quarrymen’s Cave and Clashach Cave, are much more accessible than the other caves. Maybe too accessible…some of their photos ended up getting “photobombed” by people enjoying the sun!

Today’s Find of the Day is once again from our zooarchaeological analysis (sorry about all the animal bones, but hey! That’s what you get when you let the zooarchaeologist write the excavation blog updates). From Covesea Cave 1, here is…a knife? A votive figure? A stone tool? Nope! It’s actually a bird skull (of an unidentified species as of now – if you think you recognise the bird, however, let us know in the comments!).