Dig Diary – Friday, July 18, 2014

Day Five

Newly extended Trench T, with the Stenness loch in the background,

Newly extended Trench T, with the Stenness loch in the background,

Hacked, but back . . .

It’s great to be back. Not that we have been anywhere in terms of the archaeology. The work at the Ness has carried on and we will give you the latest in a moment.

The diary, however, was missing from Orkneyjar for a spell last night/this morning because it had been hacked — for the second time.

Many thanks to Sigurd, who has put it all together again, but we are left wondering what sort of person gets pleasure from wrecking an archaeology diary. If he would like to drop by the Ness, there are several muscular diggers who would be happy to carry the conversation further.

The big event this morning was the arrival of a mechanical digger to work on Trench T, the downhill trench which lies in the field on the other side of the house of Lochview.

Regular readers will remember that this large mound is either the biggest Neolithic midden in Britain, or it may hide a structure, perhaps a chambered tomb, at its heart.  The focus for this season is an extension of the sondage, the deeper part of the trench.

This now runs much further downslope towards Stenness loch in an attempt to understand just how big the midden mound can get. It turns out that it can get very, very big indeed, with many more tons of midden revealing themselves.

To take the sondage deeper requires a stepping of the adjacent land for safety reasons, so the spoil heap has been moved and work will start in earnest next week.

Chloe and Karen plan the new wall under Structure Fourteen's robbed north-west wall.

Chloe and Karen plan the new wall under Structure Fourteen’s robbed north-west wall.

There are interesting developments in Structure Fourteen, where the robbed out area to the north-west was excavated in an attempt to reach the natural soil surface under the midden deposit.

The natural was not reached for, within minutes, the tops of several huge blocks of stone were revealed, no doubt representing yet another structure underneath.

Today we welcome Catriona Gibson, who is the new supervisor for Structure Eight and the central midden.

Catriona’s induction into Ness archaeology has been lively as the large hearth she has been examining looks likely to resolve itself into a hearth on top of a hearth, on top of a hearth. Stacked hearths, in other words, with the clue being the relatively high position of the visible feature.

Tansy and her polished stone implement.

In the central midden, Ann and Jo are reducing the clay spread which constitutes one of the hiatuses (is there another plural?) in the deposition of midden.

Once this is accomplished and baulks are removed, the whole of the central area  from Structure One onwards will be back in phase.

In Structure Twelve, the removal of the final pieces of the central baulk have revealed more fantastic dressed stones.

Not far away, Tansy has found a handsome polished stone tool fashioned from soft stone. It is very reminiscent of the spatulas found in Structure Eight.

And in Structure Ten more of the remains of the robber cut where the original inner wall stood in the south, east and north are being excavated.

At this point we should say that the Ness dig is normally a happy one.

Unfortunately, there is now disagreement over one highly contentious issue. As we mentioned yesterday a beard growing competition has been proposed by Mike and Rick, both suitably hirsute already. This is rejected on the grounds of sexism. Women can’t compete, can they?

The objection is now overturned with the surprising information that Claire and Jan, stalwarts of Structure Ten, are joint winners of a beard competition at the York Viking Festival. Both Claire and Jan are frequently (all right, always) exceedingly grubby but they are undeniably of the female persuasion. Furthermore, their winning beards were fake. What is to be done?

Like much of the archaeology, this will not be resolved over the weekend. See you next week.

Jenna revealed more dressed stone in the pier in Structure Twelve.

Jenna revealed more dressed stone in the pier in Structure Twelve.

From the Trenches

Michael Fraser

Michael Fraser

My name is Michael. I currently study through the UHI towards a Mlitt in Archaeological Studies.

My being at the Ness excavation is that it is a module for which I should write a reflective journal. Moreover my exertions are graded also. Usually, I reside around Inverness, although I have lived in Czech Republic and more recently Finland. Besides studying archaeology, I work in a kilt shop and sail boats down Loch Ness, regularly I can be found changing from my kilt to my skipper’s regalia.

My first day on the dig was Monday.

I turned up late during the first break, helped shift some stones then we soon had another break.

I thought to myself that this is a nice holiday. However, each day that passes our breaks seems to become shorter. Yet, as the first week of excavations draws to a close for the weekend, I would rather the breaks stayed shorter so I may spend more time on my knees in amongst the archaeology. I have really enjoyed working alongside my team leader, Dan. That guy has a wealth of knowledge and has been great with passing it on.

So far the experience has been very nice. Nice people, nice weather and great archaeology. I am still looking forward to some really nice finds.

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