Dig Diary – Friday, August 21, 2015

Day Thirty-Five

Owain leaps nimbly about in Structure Eight, arranging scales for the official photos.

Owain leaps nimbly about in Structure Eight, arranging scales for the official photos.

A day of departures

Today is a day of departures. We said goodbye to the French film crew, who have been filming here all week and who have been fortunate to see just a little Orkney sun among all the clouds and rain.

Director Nick is interviewed by Peter Eeckhout, in Structure Ten, for Franco-German television.

Director Nick is interviewed by Peter Eeckhout, in Structure Ten, for Franco-German television.

They spent most of today interviewing Nick and Professor Jane Downes, before heading off to other archaeological sites around the world in what will be a marathon series.

Several Ness trusties will also be leaving — including Beth (see below) and Sarah “Leprechaun” Cobain, who will just have to put up with her job at Cotswold Archaeology for another ten months until she can join us once more.

Work continued apace in the afternoon, despite the wind, which alternately nagged and howled.

In Trench T, yet another mystery appeared in the form of a further orthostat (upright stone).

It is parallel to the wall face excavated last week but does nothing to clear up the identity of the curious building at the bottom of the trench.

It seems we must resign ourselves to waiting until next year before further progress can be made.

In Structure Ten, the decorated orthostat whose condition is deteriorating was finally removed for some tender care and conservation. Mark, Alette and Tansy had spent many hours recording its surroundings, for its removal, which was utterly necessary, was out of sequence.

At the bottom of the pit you can just see the top of the new orthostat in Trench T, which aligns with others discovered close by.

At the bottom of the pit you can just see the top of the new orthostat in Trench T, which aligns with others discovered close by.

Structure Eight was prettified to within an inch of its life for another photographic session. Almost all of the work had been done when a burst of rain swept across the site.

Luckily, those holding the photographic ladder stuck to their task, which was just as well for Andy, who was swaying at the top with the camera.

More swaying photographic equipment was seen when Hugo launched his “flying mattress” into the air in order to take photographs from above.

Controlling the kite in these conditions was not easy but the photographs are, as always, magnificent. The real problem came when the kite had to be brought back to earth.

For safety’s sake this was accomplished once the kite had been tied off to one of the site vans as we finally decided that Hugo was probably more valuable than a Transit van.

Over at the site shop, the new guidebook has been flying from the shelves, indeed we may soon have to contemplate a reprint. It is, however, still available on site, at good bookshops and online here.

From the Trenches

Structure Eight receives an overall clean prior to a major photo session.

Structure Eight receives an overall clean prior to a major photo session.

I’m Beth, the “beeper” in training at the Ness of Brodgar.

This is my last day at the Ness in 2015 and I have been encouraged to write this section of blog today — despite my best attempts to remain somewhat anonymous and avoid writing altogether. However, it is a challenge I am willing to accept.

I have just completed the third year of my undergraduate degree with the Archaeology Institute at Orkney College UHI and this was my first year at the Ness of Brodgar.

I have previously taken part in other excavations in different parts of Orkney, but when Mark (master beeper) offered me the opportunity to learn something different at the Ness I couldn’t turn it down.

Lights, camera, action — Professor Jane Downes explains aspects of the Ness to the TV crew.

Lights, camera, action — Professor Jane Downes explains aspects of the Ness to the TV crew.

As a “beeper” my role involves several different machines that make a variety of noises depending on how happy they are.

I have become intimately familiar with the many different sounds and now no longer need to see the screen to know what they want. The machine I have become most familiar with is the Leica Total Station Theodolite, or TST for short.

The TST records all the small finds, environmental samples and drawing points in the main trench to millimetre accuracy in three dimensions.

All this data (and there is LOTS of it) is then processed in several different ways to get the most from the data including producing a representation of the site with all data points present.

A screenshot of TST data, processed in CAD, showing all finds, samples and other data from Trench P in 2015. The location of the remains of the water pipe baulk are particularly clear running from top to bottom across the centre of the image.

A screenshot of TST data, processed in CAD, showing all finds, samples and other data from Trench P in 2015. The location of the remains of the water pipe baulk are particularly clear running from top to bottom across the centre of the image.

This week has also involved using the Leica Laser Scanner, which creates amazing 3D images quickly and wows anyone who sees the results.

In many ways, I had a unique experience of the site.

Dan instructs UHI students in the ways of levelling.

Dan instructs UHI students in the ways of levelling.

I have been inside each of the structures and wandered in and out of both trenches. I have also seen a lot of the extra special small finds in situ and walked around and over many of the walls and paving. A lot has been learnt and in the past two weeks I have started passing on these skills to students from UHI and Willamette.

The last six weeks at the Ness of Brodgar really have flown by, with little time to ponder the changes going on around me but they have most definitely occurred.

I have become increasingly engrossed by the archaeology around me and the little quirks found here.

I quickly came to realise that each structure is different. For example, Structure Twelve is dense with pot, whereas the main finds I have processed from Structure Ten have been samples of the floor deposits intermixed with quantities of worked stone. The other structures are equally diverse.

It has been a truly fascinating and enjoyable experience. A special thanks should go to Mark for all the support, fun and opportunities at the Ness.

Pupils from Firth School pay their first visit to the Ness.

Pupils from Firth School pay their first visit to the Ness.

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