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Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Latest News from the Skomer Island Project - The 2016 Fieldwork Season

Last week, the Skomer Island Project team returned to Skomer to undertake the latest phase of archaeological research on the Island. This year archaeologists Louise Barker and Toby Driver (RCAHMW), Bob Johnston (University of Sheffield) and Oliver Davis (Cardiff University) were delighted to be joined by geographer and environmental scientist Sarah Davies of Aberystwyth University.

Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire is famed for its wildlife and for the survival of its ancient field systems which are amongst the best preserved anywhere in Britain. (© Crown Copyright: RCAHMW, AP_2010_3294)
The aims of this year’s work were twofold; to excavate one of the Island’s main archaeological features, a prehistoric field boundary and the continuation of geophysical survey within the improved fields surrounding the old farm in the centre of the Island.

Despite Storm Katie cutting short our planned four days of fieldwork, we managed to achieve our goals in the two sunny and still days we had and were also lucky enough to witness the return of the puffins.

Archaeological fieldwork involves lots of kit. Getting onto Skomer is always an energetic start to the field season. (© Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)

The site of the excavation. (© Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)
The focus of our small evaluation trench was a substantial lynchet, part of the Northern Field Systems on the Island. A lynchet is a bank of earth that builds up on the downslope of a field ploughed over a period of time and the resulting earth or plough soil is important for helping us reconstruct the environmental history of the Island, identify what was being cultivated and possibly at what date. Therefore, the principal focus of the excavation was to recover samples of the soils within the lynchet which will now be carefully analysed over the coming months.

Excavation in progress. A large number of stones, the result of field clearance, were encountered. (© Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)

Preliminary results from the geophysical survey also look positive. Within the improved fields surrounding the farm in the centre of the Island, there is little evidence for surviving archaeology; however geophysics undertaken in 2012 did reveal sub-surface archaeological features and we wanted to see if this was the case elsewhere. This was indeed the case, and in the area surveyed directly to the west of the farm, the gradiometer detected a linear feature, perhaps a ditch cut by later cultivation ridges.

Geophysical survey in progress with some promising preliminary results (© Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)

As ever the Skomer Island Project team would like to thank the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and the Skomer Wardens for their continued support and help with our work on the Island.

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