Finche's Soutterain

Bringing the Late Iron Age to Life


I started this blog, a month ago, with the idea of creating a persona story. After my first blog post/entry, I realized that I didn’t know quite enough (so I felt) to answer even the most basic question of – What would she have eaten for breakfast? I then proceeded to use this conundrum as an excuse not to write anything more, until I had done “enough” research. The only problem with doing, or trying to do, “enough” research, is that I allowed it to stop me from creating this persona story. I have been convinced, that this was the wrong approach to me joy of research. So, I will be starting over, or rebooting, and while Finche’s story may have many inaccuracies, know that these anachronisms will and are leading to more and moer research.

Hopefully, this will help not only disseminate what I learn, as I endeavor to bring Finche’s era and story to life, but also maybe, just maybe, inspire others not only to do research of their own, for their personas, but to help bring their personas to ‘life’.


This morning I woke up before the sun because the animals were making more than their usual levels of noise. The only thing I can think of, is that a wild cat or strange dog got to close to their shelter. After checking on them and finding no dead or injured animals, I went about my usual morning routine. I let the animals out onto their pasture land, relieved myself, then stoked up the fire from last night, so that I could heat up my pottage… while it was heating up, I went outside to see if there were any fruit still on the bushes to add to my pottage for a bit of different flavor. Later I will move the cow to a different field, and the sheep will hopefully let me move them up to the upper field that needs clearing.

What type of enclosure would the cows and sheep be kept in overnight? If I live in a roundhouse, is it made strictly of wattle and daub, or could the walls have incorporated in them, stone?

Update: The home I would live in, would be made of stone since by this time period (Late Iron Age) there were no trees other than scrub. The reason for this is due to the salt-laden winds which are quite prevalent across Orkney. Fresh water would have been drawn from the well that was dug and stone-lined, within the enclosure for the settlement/village.

What kind of cows would I have? What poultry would I be raising, and were there any pigs? The sheep I’m pretty sure would be Soay, as they are indigenous to Northern Scotland…

Update: While it is possible that I would have raised only Soay sheep, there is some evidence that there was trade with the Norse people (based on archaeological evidence of trade goods in the 5th century) and that means that there could have been sheep brought over with them (Spaelsau, Villsau or Gammelnorsk) that then cross-bred with the Soay – giving rise to the Orkney breed of sheep.

What would my pottage be made of? Update: Don’t know that I would have made/eaten pottage, but the porridge would have consisted of barley and oat grains.

A day in the life…. hopefully for at least a year

So, I’ve been thinking about writing up blog posts in the first person for my persona. After chatting with Mistress Melisande about it, I decided to do this online so that perhaps others will join in the conversation. With this journaling, I expect it to generate new research questions for me (and anyone who’s interested in this project).

So, with luck, time and perseverance, I hope to have a two-part posting as Finche (pronounced fin-ka) when I post. The first part being in first person, the second being either research notes or questions to be researched further. In this manner, I hope to flesh out my persona into a living, breathing being, as it were. This may not happen every day, but hopefully, there will be enough that I can get a better idea of what life may have been like, in either Orkney, or the Kingdom of Cait in the 4th-7th centuries. The time and place bracketing is due to how little we actually know about these places, and time period.

(Cross posting this first entry to my Facebook timeline.)

Research Beginnings

I have been reading the different pages and articles on the “Learning Historical Research” website (that was linked from Eithni’s website). In doing so, I’ve been mentally revisiting some of my early research. My eventual goal, is to write up a research paper and submit it to the Arts & Science faire in 2018 – with luck, as part of a Pentathlon entry. Although, I’m not too sure just what the other four entries will be, and in what categories they’ll be part of. I know that I *would* like to have an entry in the “Animal Husbandry” section, but I don’t quite see that happening, since I don’t have a farm or the means to acquire the sheep I want to work with. It is a future dream.

Any way, so… one of my early research questions was “What would a Pictish woman of the 4th-7th centuries have had available to spin and weave with? What breeds of sheep would she have been raising (secondarily, would she have been raising them purely for wool, milk, or meat)?

And so, I went off from there. A question that was soon generated, was, what breeds of sheep were living in Northern Scotland/Orkney during this time period? Followed with how did the North Ronaldsay, Shetland and Icelandic sheep breeds develop? Are they related to the Soay sheep in any way? If so, what was the other ‘breed’ that was used initially to create them, since the Soay is a small sheep, and while it has somewhat of a dual-coat, it is not a true dual-coated sheep breed – whereas the North Ronaldsay, Shetland, and Icelandic sheep are true dual-coated breeds.

I’ve also been thinking about where the Roman sheep breeds come into the picture – but that is more for purposes of exclusion than anything else (given that the Roman breeds originated in the warmer Mediterranean areas, they wouldn’t have introduced the genetics for dual-coats like some of the Scandinavian breeds would have done).

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