Scalloway dig gets under way

The slightly delayed archaeological dig, that could uncover the lost Viking capital of Shetland, got under way this morning as volunteers and experts gathered in Mill Brae, Scalloway.

The two-week dig, costing almost £20,000, is being led by Orca (Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology) and comes after the surprise discovery of human remains and Bronze, Pictish, Norse and Iron Age artifacts last summer while a shed was being erected.

Money for the dig, on a site they have named Skailway, was raised via a JustGiving page and will pay for machinery, archaeology site management and post dig paperwork and analysis.

A call for volunteers on the Skailway Facebook page was so overwhelming the organisers had to put out a notice just a day later, informing would-be “time teamers” that places were now full.

Sean Bell, Orca project officer, said: “We had over 40 volunteers offering help in 24 hours, but we had to limit the numbers because of social distancing.

“It’s actually quite hard work, it’s not four hours of tickling a stone.”

Today, Friday, 21st May, the first day of the dig, will see nine trenches dug, first mechanically and then by hand as Mr Bell explains: “We locate the trenches on the basis of geophysical  surveys and then I just keep and eye on the machine until it starts to look interesting.”

A full report on the first week at the Skailway site will appear in the Friday, 28th edition of The Shetland Times.


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