Dig Diary – Friday, August 3, 2018

Day Twenty-Five

Structure Ten supervisor Sinead captures the moment Teresa lifted her beautiful axe.
Structure Ten supervisor Sinead captures the moment Therese lifted her beautiful axe.

Axe find raises rain-dampened spirits

Today started eerily quiet. 

A flat calm descended on the lochs which flank us and, across the waters, drifted the ghostly wails of the divers (feathered ones, that is).

At first the meteorological mood seemed matched by what was happening in the trenches. Sultry weather has a way of transferring itself to people and trowels appeared to be moving more slowly than usual.

But not for long.

A delighted Teresa with the gneiss axe from Structure Ten.
A delighted Therese with the gneiss axe from Structure Ten.

In Structure Ten, as we mentioned yesterday, Therese has been working at the west end on a sondage which goes through the floors of the building.

It must be said that this painstaking unpicking of the different episodes of floor deposition is not the most wonderful archaeological task, although important.

Therese has stuck at it with commendable determination, but today is her last day on site and she no doubt hoped for something special to happen.

It did.

Her trowel found stone which was then transformed into a beautiful stone axe.

It is made of banded gneiss, with one of the bands being orange-coloured, but its true beauty only emerged when it was gently moistened with clean water.

An equally delighted site director Nick examines the new find.
An equally delighted site director Nick examines the new find.

Not only is it ridiculously handsome, but it is also of huge interest as it shows clear signs of use wear.

One side of the blade has been carefully re-sharpened, but not the other which still shows the marks of heavy usage.

Both sides have then had a secondary function as a small anvil, with the effects of percussion showing as small, rough depressions in the surface.

It is similar, in several ways, to another stone axe, which was found by former Structure Ten supervisor Sarah back in 2012.

Interestingly, Sarah’s axe was uncovered just above this one.

Extension approved for Trench Y

Bothered by the rain? Not Aaron. Still smiling.
Bothered by the rain? Not Aaron. Still smiling.

Over in Trench Y, the hunt for the wall on the west side continues.

After many ups and downs the team now report the possible presence of large blocky stones at the bottom of the trench.

This may indeed be the wall but to be sure, site director Nick has surrendered to his basic urges once more and has ordered an extension of the trench almost to the edge of Stenness loch. We shall see.

We were visited by Orkney Islands Council convener Harvey Johnston and his family.

Harvey had entered a council Christmas raffle and had won a tour of the site with Nick. It was raining, annoyingly, for most of the time but Harvey and family appear to have enjoyed their visit. We hope they come back soon.

Rain, rain, go away…

Visitors on the viewing platform while the rain falls.
Visitors on the viewing platform while the rain falls.

The aforementioned rain continued for much of the afternoon.

It was the sort of lightish rain which people describe as ‘wetting’ which seems ridiculously obvious. It was certainly wet enough to bring a halt to excavation. The diggers went home to dry off, but the supervisors stayed in their hut to catch up on paperwork.

We will now take a break for the weekend.

Tomorrow sees the wedding of the director of The Cairns Iron Age site, Martin Carruthers and fellow UHI archaeologist, Amanda Brend.

We expect sore heads on Sunday, perhaps extending into Monday.

See you then.