Location: Rousay, Orkney
Dates: 22nd June to 10th August
Cost: Free.
Age: 18 years and over only
Training / Experience: Experienced volunteers preferred.
Accommodation: None.
Organization: Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust
Name: Caz Mamwell
Address: Bayview, Birsay, Orkney, KW17 2LR
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: N/A


The Knowe of Swandro is being destroyed by coastal erosion. The site includes a Neolithic chambered tomb and a large multi-period settlement, consisting of Iron Age roundhouses, Pictish buildings (including a smithy, where one of the stone anvils preserved the hand and knee prints of the Pictish metalworker) together with Viking and Norse remains. Our immediate priority is the rescue excavation of the Neolithic chambered tomb, where the main burial chamber, currently intact, is likely to hold human remains.  

Excavators working on the surviving walls of the chambered tomb (Credit: Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust)

The outer walls of the tomb have been destroyed and limited time remains before the sea reaches the burial chamber itself. Of particular urgency is the need to recover the human remains from the burial chamber before they are swept away by the sea. These remains have the potential to shed new light on Neolithic burial practices and the lifestyles of the people of Orkney 5,000 years ago, including valuable information relating to diet, health and the origins of Orkney’s Neolithic farmers. Once the chambered tomb has been excavated then we hope that further seasons of excavation will, subject to funding, focus on the multi-period settlement, before its inevitable destruction by the sea. More information and free downloads may be found on our website

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