What a very chaotic day. It started badly when my car broke down, leaving me stranded. Luckily, a part of my brain suddenly realised that the School tour of the excavations today left from my home town, so I could still get to site, albeit 90 minutes late. There’s a lot to report, and I’m very short of time tonight, so shall cut to the highlights…
As I mentioned yesterday, we had a big school party out today and a TV crew out making a pilot for a possible series. Work also continued apace on the trenches and we even managed time to fit in a meeting with the OPW’s Chief Architect Ana Dolan to discuss how we were going to reinstate the cairn.
Our most exciting find came from the cross base, where we continued to remove layers mixed with post-medieval material. Kim and Niamh removed a large stone from the cairn, underneath which were two cigarette filters and a bullaun stone. Clearly this part of the cairn is not of great antiquity but the bullaun is very exciting. Bullauns are a feature of early medieval Christian sites, they are rocks with notable hollows in them: very varied in overall size and shape. There has been a lot of speculation as to their purpose – as fonts for purification rituals, through grinding of grain and a possible use in processing metal ores. They certainly seem to have an association with pilgrimage, and sometimes seem to mark the edges of sacred areas. Our bullaun is obviously not in its original location, but, if we assume that it hasn’t moved very far, it is to our knowledge the first from the Upper Lake area. This is an important find.
Two weeks ago we planned to have everything finished this evening, and to have only back filling to go. It is fair to say that we still have a lot of excavation to do tomorrow, regardless of the heroic efforts of everyone today. Emotional messages of thanks are normally for the last day, but I would like to stress that all members of staff have been hugely impressed by the students this year: who have been really enthusiastic, engaged and hard working. One of my colleagues has just emailed me asking me to say how impressed he was with everyone today. That’s never happened before!