Dig Diary – Friday, July 15, 2016

Day Ten

Fingers crossed for a chambered tomb

The three layers of flagstone paving covering the drain on the outside of Structure Twenty-Seven in Trench T.

The three layers of flagstone paving covering the drain on the outside of Structure Twenty-Seven in Trench T.

Today, we have startling news from Trench  T – the one which runs from the huge midden beyond the house and down to Stenness loch.

Ben and his team have been finishing off the last of the “pointless pits” and, earlier today, removed the remains of a small section across the drain and wall of the very large structure.

This building lies at the loch end of the trench and is called Structure Twenty-Seven.

We have mentioned this to you already and, although it has been extensively robbed of stone, there are signs that it may yet – with fingers crossed – turn out to be the remains of a chambered tomb.

But back to Ben and the team – they revealed no less than three levels of flagging (flagstones) over the drain, which instantly brought to mind elements of Structure Ten, which is surrounded by a flagstone walkway and which has, underneath it, a carefully constructed drain.

Could Structure Twenty-Seven also be circled by a walkway?

Frankly we have no idea if this is relevant, but it is becoming increasingly clear that this new structure may yet turn out to be one of the most important elements in this already archaeologically high-status site.

Not all the work taking place on the Ness is dramatic, but all of it is important.

Jasper nears completion of his section through the robber cut that removed the outer wall of Structure Ten.

Jasper nears completion of his section through the robber cut that removed the outer wall of Structure Ten.

None more so than Jasper’s painstaking efforts to remove the infill of another section of the robber cut at the outer wall of Structure Ten.

With the utmost precision he has excavated it this week and revealed a very nice sequence of cuts, re-cuts and robbing events, which illustrate exactly what happened to this section of the structure, once its life had ended.

In Structures One, Eight and Twelve the planning and actual gathering of samples from the grids is progressing well and Scott is already zapping many of them with his XRF equipment to identify their composition.

Today is, unfortunately, the last day on site for Jo McKenzie, our geoarchaeologist.

Jo McKenzie and her near-perfect sample through the floors of Structure Eight - carefully balanced on the cake-slice used to extract it.

Jo McKenzie and her near-perfect sample through the floors of Structure Eight – carefully balanced on the cake-slice used to extract it.

It’s heartening when archaeological sites give nice little presents to specialists at the end of their stints, and the Ness obliged today with one of the best floor samples Jo has ever had.

It clearly shows two bands of yellow clay floors with interleaving ash deposits and was taken from near one of the hearths in Structure Eight.

As we mentioned yesterday, Jo will be writing for the diary soon and we will ask her to include this sample as an illustration.

Our visitors today included two prospective Phd students for our Archaeology Institute, both of whom are interested in the prehistoric uses of seaweed.

Archaeology is, you see, the broadest of disciplines.

We were also visited by the John Wheelwright Archaeological Society, from West Yorkshire, who were treated to a special tour by Nick before the rain clouds burst.

The new Brig of Brodgar, spanning the width of Trench X.

The new Brig of Brodgar, spanning the width of Trench X.

And we have a wonderful new addition to the comfort and safety of the site.

Trench X, which runs down to the Stenness Loch from near Structure Twelve, was proving difficult to move across.

Nobody wants to stand on surfaces carefully excavated by diggers but the trench was blocking easy access around that part of the site.

Our good friend and helper Jim Middlemas came to the rescue, together with help from the kind folk at Buildbase in Kirkwall. They donated wood and Jim has made a substantial bridge to cross the archaeological void.

Life, and transit, is now much easier. If the rain doesn’t wash us all away we will see you on Monday.

Until then . . .

From the Trenches

Section recording to the north of Structure Ten.

Section recording to the north of Structure Ten.

Hello there, my name is Helen.

I am a student at Orkney College UHI and just finishing up the first year of my degree.

I moved to Orkney in September for my degree, having lived in Somerset all my life, and can say that to live and work on these islands is truly an experience I have loved.

The Ness of Brodgar is my third excavation, after volunteering at Silchester as well as The Cairns, in South Ronaldsay, just before this.

This site is one which, after only a week, I can say that I have really enjoyed working on – with a great team who are so supportive of everyone and fantastic archaeology which has captivated me.

Samples a go-go across the secondary clay floor of Structure One.

Samples a go-go across the secondary clay floor of Structure One.

The skill with which excavation has been completed over the years the site had been active is clear.  The structures, which capture the attention of everyone who visits the site, are very well-preserved and have been excavated with utmost care. That is plain to see.

I first learned about this site in an article from a few years ago, and though I was awed then, it really didn’t do it justice.

I am working on Trench X, with many others from the field school. This is a new trench and as such there is much to uncover, and much to plan as well. Today, we finished the planning started yesterday and began trowelling again in the well-compacted soil –  just in time for the rain to come down, although that wasn’t much of a deterrent.

This dig is definitely a great one to learn on, with both great archaeology and archaeologists, and as such I feel so blessed to be able to work on this site.

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