Dig Diary – Friday, July 31, 2015

Day Twenty

The team assemble to hear all about the latest revelations from Structure Ten, from supervisor Sarah.

The team assemble to hear all about the latest revelations from Structure Ten, from supervisor Sarah.

Dodging the downpours

To start, today, we  want to introduce Jim Eltome, husband of Annabel, who runs the site shop, and the man on site who can turn his hand to absolutely anything. Distressed at the sight of diggers sitting on the wet grass during their breaks, Jim recently recycled some telegraph poles by fashioning them into a rectangular seating complex. It is sheer luxury, but the diggers deserve every bit of comfort they can get.

Jim's latest creation — a fabulous artefact display case.

Jim’s latest creation — a fabulous artefact display case.

Jim’s latest project is a magnificent display case, with a wooden base and a glass top made using a double-glazed window unit. The window was kindly donated by Brian Brass and the wood by Brough Brothers (two local building contractors). It is, frankly, better than most things you would see in a museum and it locks securely. Many thanks, Jim, what will you do next?

Today started with a tour of the site for all the workers.

It is an excellent opportunity for those who may spend a lot of time digging in one particular spot to get a good idea about what is happening elsewhere. Each structure supervisor gave a detailed description of his building and then fielded some penetrating questions.

Just before lunch, site director Nick took a gamble with the weather and organised the cleaning of an area around Structures One and Fourteen so that Hugo could take photographs with his extending “fishing-rod” — a camera on top of a long pole.

Hugo's pole-cam is brough into action.

Hugo’s pole-cam is brought into action.

Hugo plans to take photographs of all the main areas of the site in the next few days before stitching them together into a three-dimensional panorama.

A version of this was crafted a few years ago but the site is now so radically different that a new version is overdue. We can hardly wait as it will look superb.

The only problem today was the weather.

Every time Hugo was ready to go, the rain came down. When it slackened, the site was cleaned again, puddles were sponged away and the equipment was set up. Then it rained again. Never mind, it will be finished, eventually.

In Structure Ten, Mike is continuing with the work of delicately removing the south-west buttress corner of the building.

This will radically transform the look of the structure in this area and will also get everything back into phase.

Mike starts to dismantle the remnants of the south-western inner buttress of Structure Ten, relating to its secondary phase.

Mike starts to dismantle the remnants of the south-western inner buttress of Structure Ten, relating to its secondary phase.

We would also like to mention some of our behind-the-scenes workers, beginning with Martha, our resident geologist who works in the house cataloguing the geological specimens (she would like you just to call them rock) which are recovered from the site.

Martha has been crucial in opening everyone’s eyes to the way rock is handled at the Ness and the way different rocks were brought here from all over Orkney to be used in many ways.

This is undoubtedly a rock-obsessed society, for it is used everywhere, for decoration, roofing, tempering clay for pots and generally being the bedrock (sorry) of society.

We would also like to mention the sterling work carried out by Avery, Professor Scott Pike’s son. Avery is closely involved with his dad’s analytical work, keeps him in order and reminds him to put on his waterproofs when it is raining.

Now it’s the weekend and, after a long, hard haul in the last two weeks, everyone is more than ready for it.

We’ll be back next week and so, we hope, will you. Until then . . .

From the Trenches

Martha Johnson, our in-house geologist, hard at work in her office.

Martha Johnson, our in-house geologist, hard at work in her office.

Hello, I’m Callum. I finished my undergraduate degree this year and I’m now enjoying a summer’s worth of excavation (despite the sore knees!).

This is my first year at the Ness, therefore I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. So far it has been a wonderful experience, working with Dan’s team in Structure One.

We have been trying to understand the sequence of floor deposits within the structure — a challenging and rewarding task. This is quite different from what I am used to on other excavations.

Avery Pike zaps another soil sample with XRF — he will soon do his dad out of a job.

However, it makes a nice change and it has been great to practice a range of skills including: photography, planning, sampling, and context recognition and recording. In fact,  I’ve enjoyed it so much I’ve started to have dreams about certain contexts!

Although there hasn’t been a lot of artefacts recovered from Structure One this season, the ones which have been found have been very interesting — quality is better than quantity!

An axehead, found by Andy in the south recess, was particularly beautiful. Also, the mint humbug pebble, which I found, was interesting and reminded everyone in the structure of being young children collecting colourful pebbles off the beach.

Today, I’ve had a rest from excavating floor deposits.

First, we were given a site tour from the supervisors. It was fascinating to have a glimpse at other areas of the site and to see what other people had worked on. After tea break, I helped clean the site for photographs which Hugo was planning to take. This afternoon’s rain showers have been a little disappointing, but hopefully they won’t last too long . . .

I’m volunteering at the Ness for the rest of the season. I’m sure the next four weeks will continue to be just as fun.

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