Skye, June, 2010

A couple of years ago I had a great  break on Skye, doing some archaeology, some walking, a bit of wildlife photographing, and just generally having a good time.
I posted a photo album about it on FaceJerkOff at the time, but since I've been getting increasingly distrustful of their policies since ... well, since they existed, to be honest, I've been taking my content off there in fits and starts, and I guess now is the time to move that album off too.

Uamh an Ard Achadh - "Cave of the High Pastures", or "Tin Can Alley" in times gone by (the current farmers are much more appreciative of it than previous ones, who just considered it a trap for their beasts). A natural limestone cave which appears to have been used as some sort of ritual site in the Mesolothic to early Iron Age, with modification of the cave entrance by dry-stone dyking, probably ploughing (ritual? - earliest agriculture in the area?) and the deliberate (or at least, non-accidental) burial of valuable artefacts.
It's a bit hard to see (this is not a site report!) but the meandering path of the deeply incised entrance runs away towards the dig which is in material piled up behind dry-stone dyking at the downstream end of the entrance passage.

The area is just plain beautiful.

 That's a nice view to wake up to in the morning.
 The fluffy highland coo. About as natural to the area as humans are, and probably imported from central Europe with the "Neolithic Revolution" around 5000 years ago. but they've settled in well.
 On Saturday and Sunday, the professional archaeologists have days of rest, so I did the same and took a boat trip around the islands of the Inner Minch - the so-called "Small Isles". A sea-stack with very evident columnar jointing - basaltic volcanism.
 Sea fidos. Gurt wet slobbering blobs.
 Puffins - they hardly look as if they can take off, and it's a huge performance.
 Basking shark. Big shark, no teeth.
 From the "behind the wall" deposits. It needs conserving properly, but it's an iron spear head. In it's day, this was your Porsche, crossed with an Exocet missile. Or something broadly equivalent. We may not know what was the process of thought was that led to it being positively buried behind a stone wall in a modified ritual site (which had probably been in use for a couple of THOUSAND years by this point), but we do know that it was not an accidental loss.
 Archaeologists often complain about being presented with finds "out of context". This is what they mean by "context" : each of those little white tags labels a "context" - a bed of sediment whose relative date (compared to other contexts) can be determined by the "A-overlays-B" and "C-cuts-across-D" arguments of stratigraphy. It's bread and butter work to an archaeologist (and I'm up to the eyeballs in the same sort of work drilling my oil wells), but it's absolutely essential to getting a proper understanding of a site (or oil well). And with it, we can do things like this :
 These are wooden fragments, possibly from a turned or carved bowl, taken from one of the "contexts in the image above. They're large enough to probably give a good carbon date to the context from which they come. AND thereby, they constrain the possible dates for many of the other contexts on the site.
Then along comes some creationist dipshit and dismisses this sort of work with "the archaeologists are lieing bastards who are blinded by their science to the power of our great sky fairy". Well, fuck you, god-squaddies - you plainly do not understand just how much hard, painstaking, detailed work you are casually brushing aside just to make yourselves feel less insignificant than you are.
These dingbats really do make me seethe.

To de-seethe, another bit of Skye's improbable scenery. The Old Man of Storr. See it before it falls over!
 There's a famous fossil site near the Old Man. It's a "no hammer" zone, but that doesn't preclude one finding excellent fossils in the beach debris. However ... when the site says "check the tide tables", it means "do not turn up on a whim without the slightest idea of the state of the tide". consider yourselves warned.
Lybster oil drilling site. There's an oil well of considerable weirdness being drilled there. The interest and amusement are pretty esoteric though.