Dig Diary – Friday, July 20, 2018

Day Fifteen

The update for diggers began at Trench T this morning.
The update tour for diggers began at Trench T this morning.

More surprises from Structure Ten!

Site director Nick updates the team on the latest thoughts and findings across the site.
Site director Nick updates the team on the latest thoughts and findings across the site.

Today is the end of a long week, which started last Sunday with our first Open Day.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that people are looking a little tired, but eagerly anticipating (especially the younger ones) the weekend.

The slightly older ones, as Peter commented today, are looking forward to a hot shower, meal and bed.

We are saying goodbye today to some members of the team who have worked long and hard and we thank them for their efforts and wish them safe home.

Site director Nick treated everyone to a tour of the whole site this morning, which was interesting and informative and valuable in one particular respect.

If diggers work in one trench for a while, there is a tendency to become almost institutionalised and to think only of your trench and what you have in front of you.

It is far better to have a good appreciation and understanding of the rest of the site, and that is what Nick’s team tours accomplish so effectively.

Those leaving today have some fascinating developments to think about as they go.

Another deposit of cattle bone

The bone deposit lying across the paved passageway around Structure Ten.

Much of the amazing bone spread forming the uppermost fill of the passageway around Structure Ten has already been excavated but, as always with the Ness, there was a surprise in store.

The Structure Ten team returned this morning to a sondage (a carefully controlled and limited small, and often deep, trench) across the outer paved pathway to check various stratigraphic relationships, which was first excavated in 2008.

A jawbone from the bone deposit uncovered today.

While cleaning back the section, to everyone’s surprise, another bone deposit was revealed, peeking out from the bottom of the section lying directly on the paving of the passageway – one of the primary fills of the passage.

This new deposit was not present in other sections across the passageway.

Unlike the upper deposit which consists largely of cattle tibia (representing between 400-600 cattle!) and which may represent an event marking the last use of Structure Ten, the new and deeper deposit appears to represent large quantities of much more mixed cattle bone.

The sampling grid in place in the interior of Structure Ten.
The sampling grid in place in the interior of Structure Ten.

Will it prove to be as extensive or as structured as the upper bone layer or a more localised deposit perhaps just around the front half of Structure Ten? Time will tell…

So perhaps two separate bone deposition events occurred in the later life of Structure Ten. Some hard thinking will need to be done to work out how this new evidence may relate to the use of the building and, indeed, to its final use and abandonment – and also how we deal with it!

Elsewhere in Structure Ten, a 50cm grid is being re-established over much of the floor.

Samples will be taken from each grid square for analysis and, although this is a lengthy and tedious business, the analysis of these samples can reveal evidence about how the floors were used and what activities were taking place on them.

Linda has been addressing the problem of a large flat stone in the northern area of Structure Ten.

Large flat stones are enticing elements as the expectation is that something interesting will be underneath. In almost every case there is nothing of interest there, and so it proved in this case. Linda’s stone is now interpreted as another part of the floor levelling which took place in that area.

Relationship agreement

Excavation continues around Structure Twenty-Six, which may have been contemporary with the second phase of Structure Ten.
Excavation continues around Structure Twenty-Six, which may have been contemporary with the second phase of Structure Ten.

The exact relationship between Structures Ten and Twenty-Six has been hotly debated for some time, but new evidence is emerging which may clear up the problem.

Which came first? Twenty-Six or Ten? Nick and Claire, the supervisor for Structure Twenty-Six, have now arrived at agreement – at least for the moment.

It seems very likely that the first phase of Structure Ten preceded the building of Structure Twenty-Six, but the partial collapse and dismantling of sections of Structure Ten may have resulted in some of the nice stone from Ten, including decorated stone, being incorporated in the new build of Structure Twenty-Six.

Thus Structure Twenty-Six was probably in use during the secondary major phase of Structure Ten, when its central chamber was remodelled into a cruciform plan with the addition of corner buttresses.

Claire is now hoping for dating material which will confirm this analysis.

The wall hunt continues…

Excavation continues in Trench Y, looking for evidence of the wall that connected the northern and southern wall sections.
Excavation continues in Trench Y, looking for evidence of the wall that connected the northern and southern wall sections.

Over in Trench Y, where the hunt for the wall continues, emotions and opinions have been back and forth.

Natural boulder clay appeared in one section of the trench, which appeared to be diving downwards. Could this constitute evidence of terracing. It’s not clear at the moment and hopes are still high that remnants of the wall face will still be uncovered.

We are off now for some rest and recreation or, in the case of your diarist, a hot shower, meal and bed.

See you next week.