Dig Diary – Friday, July 6, 2018

Day Five

STOP PRESS – in the dying minutes of today rubble has started to appear in the sondage in Trench Y – is it the wall????

Trench Y this afternoon, with the sondage area marked at the top corner.
Trench Y this afternoon, with the sondage area marked at the top corner.

Well here we are at the end of our first week back on site. And what a week it has been. After its long winter slumber the Ness has returned to life and the atmosphere has been buzzing as diggers and visitors mingle and excavation picks up pace.

We will start today’s diary with Trench Y, near the shore of the Stenness Loch.

Regular readers will know that this latest addition to the trench family is to confirm the existence and location of the connecting wall that once joined the northern wall section with its southern counterpart.

Barrowload after barrowload of topsoil was removed from the trench today – the sheer quantity suggesting soil creep from the adjacent field. All of this must be moved, however, to reach the hoped-for archaeology beneath.

To help expedite the process, director Nick suggested a one-metre-square sondage – a deep, carefully planned excavation – in the top corner of Trench Y to gauge the depth of the soil needing to be moved.


Recording the positions of the roof tiles in Structure One.
Recording the positions of the roof tiles in Structure One.
Arran and Doug on planning duties in Trench J.
Arran and Doug on planning duties in Trench J.

A piece of worked flint from the Trench J extension.

Trench J’s extension entered its first planning phase today while work continued clearing the remaining topsoil and joining it to the original trench.

As mentioned yesterday, stone features seem to align with the already excavated part of Structure Five. But they are very high in the trench, which either means this section of the building has survived to a much greater height, or these stones are the remnants of later activity in the area.

The features must be planned and recorded before excavation continues deeper.

Finds so far in Trench J include pottery, burnt bone and a rather splendid flint.

Jumping across to Structure One, work continued revealing the unexpected roof tiles that lay beneath the foundations of the wall inserted into the building during its second phase of use.

The positions of these were carefully planned and also recorded by photogrammetry wizard Jim, who will create a 3d model of their layout.

Investigating Structure Twenty-Six, which now seems to be later than Structure Ten.
Investigating Structure Twenty-Six, which now looks like being very late in the site sequence.

Meanwhile, work in Structure Twenty-Six is beginning to clarify the internal and external walls of this building, nestled between Structures Twelve and Ten.

Decorated pot fragment from Structure Twenty-Six.

The goal this season is to see how it relates to these structures as well as Structure Thirty nearby.

As more of the rubble infill is removed several peck dressed and shaped blocks of stone are being revealed that seem totally out of place for such a small building, much more at home in Structure Ten, from which they were probably robbed from. 

This adds to the growing evidence that Structure Twenty-Six is indeed a very late structure in our overall sequence and post dates the demise of Structure Ten.

Today, Structure Twenty-Six also continued to produce some beautifully decorated Grooved Ware pottery as well as the jawbone of a large cow.

Cristina was joined in Trench T by last year's supervisor, Dave.
Cristina was joined in Trench T by last year’s supervisor, Dave.
Jim and Alette (at the bottom of the trench) survey Trench T.
Jim and Alette (at the bottom of the trench) survey Trench T.

Trench T has been quiet since it was uncovered on Tuesday morning while new supervisor Cristina studied the work done so far and the task that lies ahead. She was joined today by former supervisor Dave and a plan of action clarified and agreed with site director Nick..

All going well, this will see the last remnants of the multitude of late pits investigated and the remaining bulk of the midden (and there is a lot of it) overlying Structure Twenty-Seven removed and the upper levels of this most enigmatic of structures.

All in all, a very good week’s work and director Nick is delighted with the progress made. Next week the numbers will swell as new members join the dig team.

There are some tired faces leaving the site this afternoon. But despite backs weary of bending, shovelling and mattocking and arms numb from trowelling, they are all smiling.

That’s the thing about the Ness. While it is first and foremost about the archaeology, it forges friendships and a sense of camaraderie that is a sight to behold.

All will return on Monday, fully refreshed and ready to get cracking again.

So until then…