Is the Wirk a Norse castle? Re-evaluating previous investigations. The Wirk, Rousay, Orkney: Data Structure Report. Archaeological Evaluation & Geophysical Survey

Sarah Jane Gibbon, Daniel Lee, Christopher Gee, Amanda Brend

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Abstract

A programme of archaeological fieldwork was undertaken at The Wirk, on the island of Rousay, Orkney by the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology. The Wirk consists of the remains of an upstanding stone-built tower with the site of an adjoining range to the east, which are stylistically considered to be 12th century in date. The site was excavated in the 1920s by J. S. Clouston, and later dates have since been suggested for the site, however the date of the buildings, their function and the relationship between the tower and range remains unclear. Geophysical survey characterised the buried remains of the range and identified additional features in the vicinity. Evaluation excavation in two trenches located wall footings of the eastern range (southern external wall and part of the eastern ancillary building) and concluded that the tower and range were built at the same time (contra some earlier interpretations). A significant assemblage of c.13th-century worked and moulded red sandstone was recovered which is suggested to originate from a former medieval kirk nearby
rather than The Wirk. Radiocarbon dates from material (charred grain) found in deposits abutting the southern external wall of the hall at The Wirk returned Late Iron Age dates. This material is most likely derived from the disturbance of earlier activity during the construction of the hall. It is concluded that the tower and hall are contemporary and likely to be 12th century in date, based on stratigraphic relationships observed during the excavations.
Original languageEnglish
TypeData Structure Report
Media of outputWritten report
Number of pages65
Publication statusUnpublished - 21 Nov 2022

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