Archive for the ‘Knackyboy Cairn’ Category

Geophysic Results

July 30, 2007

You can view the geophysic and other survey results at

At present they are just data with no interpretation, and I am darned if I can pick out the buried sailors, or any of my entrance graves – hmmmm.  As I have said a dark art this geofizz stuff.  Hopefully Tim will make these images into something…..



Dave’s Blog 16th July

July 16, 2007

When dawn broke, neither fresh nor rosy fingered, I found I had gotten lucky last eve. The offending earwig, to whom I am referring, did not appear to share my sentiments and demonstrated this by writhing between my cheek and the groundsheet – clearly she found my advances too amorous. The misery of this morning did not last long and as the oppressive damp greyness retreated, so to did my hangover.

Today the whole team, with the exception of Edd and myself had their shackles cast off and were permitted to roam the islands as they pleased; swimming, shopping and eating dainty treats while we attempted to create presentations for tomorrow’s open day on St Martins. We did have a slight issue involving loosing a whole mornings work but I wont bore you with the details. Lets just say ALWAYS REMEMBER TO SAVE YOUR WORK!! Due to the evident lack of archaeological activity today, it seems an appropriate time for a recap on the progress thus far…


The Geo-physics equipment

Objective 1 – Tean

Work on Tean is now complete for this year. The excavation of the Romano-British midden has yielded countless fragments of bones belonging to large livestock (sheep, cattle and pigs) as well as rabbits, birds, rodents, fish and of course endless blessed limpet shells. The highlight of the finds from this ancient rubbish pit would be tiny, but definite, fragment of whale bone. These many finds have and will continue to provide invaluable information as to the diet of the inhabitants of Tean during the late Roman period (AD200-500). Excavation on the post-medieval farmhouse has revealed cobbling and a tiled path leading from the door. Geophysical and electronic surveying have been performed to discover any unknown underground features and record the existing buildings.

Objective 2 – St Martins 

Work on Knackyboy cairn is now also complete for the year, and a great number of core samples have been taken to provide an accurate electronic map of the prehistoric land surface upon which Knackyboy was built. The hazardous void into which we nearly lost several students for all posterity has now been filled and no longer presents a threat to student and public life. Within said void we found a linear formation of granite which could be, well, just about anything. I also feel compelled to mention that I found the only 3 pieces of flint fragments on the site, one of which was a carefully crafted, but broken, flint blade. 

Objective 3 – St Agnes

Our quest to find the bodies of the crew of the HMS Association and other Ships of the Line, which were shipwrecked in 1707, have so far been fairly unfruitful. Further analysis of the data gathered by magnetometry and resistivity survey may yet reveal something or provide scope for further investigation. Rather humorously, the site in question lies directly underneath the St Agnes cricket pitch and the semi-naked archaeologists prancing up and down the wicket provided endless amusement in the pavilion.

 Owen hard at work

Objective 4 – Samson

Despite plenty of unsuccessful previous attempts to rediscover the two gig sheds on the saddle of Samson. we have managed to discover one. Much to the joy of the sodden men hacking their way through the undergrowth, who actually found them by falling over them! Black and white photography of the buildings is complete and the excavation of two new trenches are well under way. One has revealed an excessive quantity and the other an excessive quantity of mud.

From my self and the goat of Bryher farewell and adieu…Dave Fung

Robert’s day

July 12, 2007

The day started out pretty slowly and it was a slightly hung over group that travelled to Tean this morning. There were three groups today with three distinct purposes; one to survey the area around Bennygate Hill and one to photograph the Bronze Age chamber burials on Cruthurs Hill. The Bennygate Team including Tim, Nick and I got a free tractor ride that almost ended their day but produced smiles all around. The luggage unloaded, they began to assess the area around the cairn by using ground resistivety and magnetometry to determine any topographic features. In the results 2 distinct features were discovered, one being to the north of the Cairn and one right angled structure to the south east. This might suggest further burial structures or some sort of complex to the Hill site. The mist could not hold back the ramblers and soon visitors came to the site to discover some of the methods used in Archaeology.

The photography was carried out by Rhys and Amy, aiming to catalogue the existing chamber burials on the hill. The site comprises of three distinct promontories each containing an archaeological feature, but another chamber burial was discovered by the pair in their exploration. Much of this involved the tedious endeavour of removing gauze to get the best picture. This had previously been overgrown by vegetation and proved a good rediscovery, expanding the importance of the site.

Chamber of tomb on Cruthers Hill, St Martins

The Teän team continue the surface excavations of the Chapel site digging further test pits hoping to expand upon the knowledge of its layout. The Roman Midden, which in itself in contains several periods of use, produced a hearth that was further excavated and the trench was expanded. Another rectangular building found to the south of the Chapel had cross excavations begun and a rock floor quickly emerged in the surface layer. Clearly the day, leaving some hot and bothered, meant that Owen and Ed went for an evening swim to cool off and return to St Martin’s. Ed almost drowned, rescued by a passing boat, but Owen managed to make its all the way across and the massive smile on his face proved dividends for his efforts.

The returning groups was greeted by Chef Dave who had spent the day collecting his ingredients and picking flowers as the entourage of a perfect meal. Let no-one say us archaeologists don’t take our work seriously with the perfect garnish being just as important as the perfect hole.


Captains (B)Log Stardate 09 July 2007

July 9, 2007

Steve playing island skittlesWe have now been working here for over a week and, whilst the weather has not been entirely kind, everyone has developed as a minimum a great navvy tan (on the face, back of neck and hands).  We have survived torrential rain and high winds, but whatever we get here seems mild compared to the strange weather on the mainland (floods and hail) and our lack of communication (no TV, newspapers, and radio very intermittently) has increased our sense of bewilderment when we hear of terrorist attacks.  

All tents remain standing; they are a source of worry to me – what do we do if we get wiped out?   However, even our 70’s frame tent on Tean, which is standing up without much of its frame, is clinging tenaciously to its upright form.  The sweepstake on its demise is favouring those who voted it would still be standing at the end.

With regard to the archaeology, I remain unconvinced that our blog provides anything other that a frankly bewildering account of boats, rain and mud so I thought I should try a summary.

Firstly St Martin’s, at Knackyboy Cairn, the entrance grave (a tomb with a chamber containing the cremated remains of the dead) we have cleared the vegetation (again) so the site is visible. 


Then using an auger (a large corkscrew on a stick) we have been examining the surrounding landscape.  From last year we know the entire area around the monument is covered in windblown sand and we trying to map the buried ancient land surface.  In one of our 2006 test pits we found a line of stones and further excavation has indicated a substantial wall running inland from the monument – the age of this is unknown and it may yet be post-medieval.  There are accounts of sand blows in the 17th century that caused the islands to be abandoned, so we may well be looking at build up from this event.  Today our geophysics chap, Tim, arrives so we will be trying to trace the wall over a larger area.  We have also discovered the cause of the strange holes dug into the monument – they were foxholes during the war! 

Elsewhere at Old Stable the test pitting has revealed a concentration of flint, but in no great numbers.  Coastal monitoring has recorded a number of flint tools eroding out in front of Knackyboy Cairn and by the Old Quay; both are previously recorded find spots.   We will clean up the sections, photograph and record these areas.  Mel, our flint specialist, is pleased with her haul and has gone home happy. 


Tean is a beautiful uninhabited island, and the multi-period site in East Porth evokes a real sense of time.  The site was first dug in the 1950s by Charles Thomas and we are continuing his work. 

Charles Thomas - the previous excavator returns

The oldest part is a Romano-British midden (rubbish heap of shell, fish, bird and mammal bones and organic waste) with a semi-subterranean structure built into it (a possible hut).  Nearby are a couple of fired clay ‘platforms’, which have been interpreted as corndryers.  This part of the site is eroding and we are examining the surviving deposits looking for pottery or other datable material.  

The next recorded activity is the burial of a four bodies in long stone lined ‘cist’ graves.  These include an older ‘toothless’ woman whose head lies under the altar of the later built chapel: Charles thought she may in fact be St. Theona, after whom the island is named.   A stone built chapel overlies these graves, and a series of later cist graves were then dug.  These ten graves included four young children and evidence of leprosy was found in some of the skeletons by Don Brothwell (the details were published in a paper in 1961).  After analysis the skeletons were returned to the islands and possibly reburied in the Tresco graveyard.  We do not know if these people were related, where they came from, their diet or over what period they were buried – all of which modern analytical techniques could tell us if they were still accessible – never mind.  The chapel lies within an enclosure that we will be examining by geophysical survey to see if more graves are present.  We have also cleared the chapel of vegetation to make it easier to understand for visitors and now some of the cist graves are once again visible.

The next discernable phase is the much later Nance farmhouse built in 1684, this family introduced the kelp industry to Scilly.   Seaweed was burnt to obtain potash used in glass making – the stalwart of many coastal communities (I have seen a kelpers village up on South Uist) during the Napoleonic Wars when cheap potash from France was not available.  Later the Tean farmhouse was built in the late seventeenth century, with associated outbuilding, including one used as a slaughterhouse.   There are also the ruins of a quay built out form the house.  Finally a large field wall (the Tean Wall – very similar to the Deer Park wall on Samson was built).  We are recording the farmhouse and have cleared down to the floor revealing beautiful cobbles in the entrance area and stone paving leading out from the house. 

Tean farmhouse

The other buildings and walls are also being recorded, and comparison with the 1880’s OS map data suggests that more buildings were present but had been ruined and incorporated into the enclosure wall at that time, something else we need to explore.  The sea, the weather and gravity are all taking a toll on these buildings and, just as we did on Samson last year, we are recording them before they are conserved in an attempt to perverse them for the future. 

Tean farmhouse - blocked up window

Anyhow that’s enough archaeology for today, I have to go and see how various tasks are coming along and post this on the blog.  I will be updating the archaeology blog again next week, after our search for the crew of the HMS Association on St Agnes.

On a lighter note our assimilation into the local community is gaining pace, three of our team have been playing cricket with the local chaps and last night we had an enjoyable night of skittles, food, beer, quiz and music (including some great Johnny Cash covers). 

Steve playing island skittles

Edds catch

The whole team love St Martin’s and its inhabitants and it will be a wrench to move to Bryher on Friday.  My recognisance to Bryher with Charlie yesterday revealed a grand little pub, café and friendly folk so I am sure we shall all survive.

Bye for now.


Megan’s Day- 8th July

July 6, 2007

Day 8 on St. Martins- After the predicted force eight gales last night, the camp awoke to blue skies but with a gusty wind.

At camp, because of a sprained ankle, I have been washing finds from the Old Stable, the Farm house on Tean and the flint found both during field walking and below Knackyboy and the Old Quay.

Once the finds were separated into categories; flint, pottery and bone each was counted. A list was made which consisted of the site name, the context number or test pit number and what the bag contained along with the number of items within the bag. This information was then typed into excel to create a finds list.

Today people were also digging in the Old Stable garden in test pits nine and ten, where more flint was found.

Most of the people on Tean were drawing wall plans today. A couple continued digging on a post-roman hut to try and find the edge of a wall.

The day is going to end with blue skies and sunshine.

Day Four, 3rd July

July 3, 2007

The second day of digging dawned, unusually with bright sunshine and no wind. The Teän team headed for the island (almost forgetting Rob on the way!), while the St. Martins team headed for the back garden that they had started to investigate a flint scatter the previous day. A smaller team comprising of Ed, Owen and Ian headed off to Knackyboy to clear vegetation, so that it was actually visible, as well as digging a test pit to begin the intrusive investigation in to the area.

In the back garden, a charcoal feature that had been discovered the previous night was cross sectioned only to find that it was nothing more that a smear within the natural. The pit was therefore refilled. Two further test pits revealed small fragments of flint as well as what we believe to be a coin and some pieces of animal bone. We were assisted by the young daughter of the owner when she returned from school and the family dog, although she seemed more content in playing. As well as the archaeological finds, we uncovered some potatoes, which were unfortunately claimed before we could get our hands on them!

Over on Teän, the “tent” had survived all be it with gallons of water on the roof! The whole site was surveyed and areas of the 18th Century farmhouse were drawn. A few others took to the task of mattocking to clear the vegetation on a plot covering a post roman hut cut into a roman rubbish pit (midden). A break was taken during the day to sprint to the tent as a huge squall hit the Isles, apparently caused by Aidan and his magical EDM staff! The same squall caused panic at base camp, where the St. Martin’s team were on lunch break, with people dashing around to take in washing and rescue items left on the garden site. The rest of the day passed without event until the evening.

A meal of spaghetti bolognaise was welcomed eagerly after a hard days work, while tents were moved around in preparation for the looming gales. The general feeling around camp as I write this is one of relaxation and full stomachs, although there is slight trepidation in view of the coming winds.

If we survive the night, we will update you tomorrow!

Amy and Nick’s Magical Mystery Tour!

July 1, 2007

This morning started off nice and leisurely; the sun was out, so we were happy. Our main aim was to acquaint ourselves with St. Martin’s archaeology and we discovered there’s a lot!  First stop, Knackyboy  – a Bronze Age entrance grave that was one of our dig sites from last year. It was gutting to see how much the vegetation had grown back; it means it will have to be cleared partially before we even start. Oh well, at least its not gorse like last time. 

Our tour, led by Jacqui and Charlie, followed the coastline with a quick stop for ice cream at the Polreath tea-room of course, yum! T he Ginger Fairing was a good flavour! Next stop more entrance graves on Cruther’s Hill giving us a great idea of how Knackyboy might have looked, despite their weathered and dismantled appearance.  As our stomachs began to rumble we went in search of three stones on Parr beach that are thought to have formed part of a stone row.  To the untrained eye, they’re really hard to see and only with the help of ‘eagle-eyed’ lecturers, we were able to find them.  They did however, provide a good place to sit and have lunch. We paused to take a team photo on English Island Carn see our welcome page.  

After having lunch, we headed up in search of more field boundaries at Chapel Down these again proved incredibly difficult to find.  Moving swiftly on, we came across the ruins of an early medieval chapel that was shadowed by the enormous Daymark.  Following the coastline, this peak then led on to the remains of a Cliff Castle on Burnt Hill, its location was impressive and would have been a challenge to siege!  After this tour, we made a return journey home, all feeling sun burnt and wind swept – especially Rhys’ arms, surprisingly lobster like in colour. 

No matter how obscure some of the features are to the untrained eye, they highlight the fact that much of the Scillonian archaeology is hidden under gorse, bracken sand and water. 

Knackyboy Cairn

June 26, 2007

The island of St. Martin’s is home to one of the most populated tombs in British prehistory, containing the remains of up to sixty people. During the Bronze Age people were buried in entrance graves: roughly circular structures made of stones and soil that overlay a rectangular-shaped chamber and were surrounded by a kerb of boulders. It was possible to enter the chamber from outside and people were placed in these tombs over a period of years. Tombs of this type are confined to the Isles of Scilly and a small area of the mainland in West Penwith, Cornwall, Tramore, Ireland and small numbers of similar monuments are known in the Channel Islands and Brittany.

A programme of archaeological investigation at Knackboy Cairn started in 2006, this will continue in the 2007 season.