BBYAC- September 2015 – 6,000 years of archaeology. Our Orkney session.

A few weeks ago we were puzzling about the next Brecon Beacons YAC session. Where were we when we were puzzling? We were in Orkney, a group of islands north of Scotland, absolutely stuffed full of archaeology. So we, Jan and Sue, said we must tell everyone about our trip and what we discovered.

We created a map of Europe for our Viking session back in January and the map became useful again as the first thing we needed to find out was, where is Orkney. And we made use of our Washing Line of Time to demonstrate how long ago archaeology In Orkney can be traced back to. Some of the sites on Orkney date back to a time before the Pyramids and before Stonehenge. Then we moved on to our first experiment.

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We had all learned about runes, a form of writing used during the Viking period, during another session. Now we were going to find out how difficult it is to carve runes in stone, just as we had seen in Orkney. We found that it is very difficult and very time consuming. We tried carving with various different things and found that as we expected metal was best. Everyone had a go at this before we moved on to something very different and thousands of years earlier.

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We tried flint knapping. There is no flint in our area so Sue had brought us some bit lumps of flint back from Dorset where she had been recently. Once again we all had a go (safety glasses and gloves much in evidence) and managed to create some excellent flint flakes which would have made brilliant arrow heads. One of our members found the flint knapping so interesting we could hardly get her away to have a refreshment break.

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Fully refreshed we moved on to making decorated Grooved Ware pots. Grooved Ware is a style of pottery found on many Neolithic sites in Orkney, some of the pottery being found now is 6,000 years old. The pots have incised and applied decoration; basically you can either stick the decoration on or carve the decoration into the clay. The pots produced were excellent and some people enjoyed this experiment the most.

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Time was fast running out now but we still managed to fit in a talk and demonstration of tortoise brooches from the Viking period. We had a go at making beautiful brooches although some people wanted to go back to flint knapping and went straight outside to get on with it.

Seems like everyone found something to interest them at this session and time just flew by. Well done everyone for have a go at all the experiments. I’ve got a feeling that we may get back to some of these things again!

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