Knowe of Swandro

We love history and we have a community project we are initiating that is going to help uncover and preserve some ancient history from a unique place in Scotland that has family ties to our beloved city of Hamilton. 

Jay's mom Rose was a Costie and the Costie family originated from the island of Rousay in Orkney, Scotland.  Jay's great great grandfather William Costay left Rousay in the 1860's settling in Hamilton, ON.  Names ending in "-ay" meant "island" or "of the island"  in the Norn language which was a dialect of Old Norse spoken in the Orkney and Shetland Islands.  The pronunciation is actually "ee" and the name was later anglicised to be Costie to match the pronunciation. 

The Orkney islands are an archaeological paradise with many neolithic sites including a number that have not yet been excavated.  Some Neolithic sites are upwards of 5000 years old which is as old as the pyramids!  The original Pictish inhabitants were displaced/absorbed by the Vikings that settled the islands but their monuments remained scattered throughout.

One important site is the Knowe of Swandro on the island of Rousay that was used by various inhabitants over thousands of years.  It is in peril of being washed away by the sea so there are efforts being undertaken to preserve/excavate/learn as much as possible from the site before this happens.  To aid in the project we are pleased to announce that we will be donating $1 from every bottle of our award winning Rousay Red #5 that we sell to the Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust! Caz Mamwell from the Trust has provided some information and photos for us to use to help raise awareness of the project:

"The Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust is a registered Scottish Charity established to respond to the destruction of Orkney’s archaeological sites by the sea. Orkney is a group of islands situated off the north coast of Scotland, with many archaeological sites situated on the foreshore and subject to ongoing coastal erosion. Global warming, the effects of climate change and melting polar ice are promoting higher sea levels and changing weather systems with increased storminess, which is exacerbating an existing problem.

Our current major project is the rescue excavation of the archaeological site at the Knowe of Swandro, in the island of Rousay, which is being destroyed by coastal erosion. The site includes a 5,000-year-old Neolithic (New Stone Age) chambered tomb and a large settlement occupied from around 1000BC to AD1200 consisting of Iron Age roundhouses and workshops, including a 2,000-year-old smithy, where one of the stone anvils preserved the hand and  nee prints of the metalworker, together with Pictish, Viking and Norse remains.

Our priority is to record and excavate the Iron Age settlement, and then to complete the excavation of the chambered tomb, where the main burial chamber may be intact, and possibly still holds 5,000-year-old human remains. The outer walls of the tomb have been destroyed and limited time remains before the sea reaches the burial chamber itself.

The excavation at Swandro is leading to an understanding of the effects of the tidal and storm damage on the site, to enhance future management strategies for this and other coastal erosion sites."

Information on the dig is found here:

Knowe of Swandro

Donations to the project can be made here:

Swandro-Orkney Donations

If you'd like to learn about Orkney and its history this website is fantastic:


1. Excavation in progress at the Knowe of Swandro, island of Rousay


2. The concentric stone walls of the 5,000 year old Neolithic chambered tomb exposed on the beach during excavation.


3.  A huge slab of stone used as an anvil 2,000 years ago, complete with the greasy hand and knee prints of the smith.