Dig Diary – Monday, August 10, 2015

Day Twenty-Six

Two old hands — Mac and Giles — consider the next move in Structure Eleven.

Two old hands — Mac and Giles — consider the next move in Structure Eleven.

The mysteries deepen . . .

Here we are at the beginning of week six, with only three weeks left of the 2015 season and a strong determination to make the most of what we have left. Today, we welcomed new batches of diggers — including eight of our own UHI students, three from Edinburgh University and three from Leiden University in Holland.

Various independent diggers also arrived, including Susan Greaney, from Historic England, and two old hands (and ex-UHI students) Giles and Mac.

Ashley with her ground stone tool.

Ashley with her ground stone tool.

All are very welcome and, within 30 minutes, Ashley, one of the UHI arrivals, had uncovered a shaped, ground stone tool, vaguely reminiscent of our famous spatulas.

Meanwhile, the remaining vestiges of the water-pipe baulk, between Structures Nineteen and Eleven, are now disappearing and they may indicate that these two structures could be part of the same, rather shoddy, building.

Not far away, at the south end of Structure Eight, Owain and his team continue to excavate the last of the rubble and midden dumps associated with the demolition of the south-east corner of Structure Eight, leading to the building of Structure Ten.

However, various orthostats (upstanding stones) are now appearing and some may relate to the mysterious entrance to the south end of Structure Eight.

Did it exist and will it be found? Only time, and more excavation, will tell.

Just to prove that Georgie is still here and revealing wondrous pottery spreads.

Just to prove that Georgie is still here and revealing wondrous pottery spreads.

And now, we return to Georgie once more.

Not because her whereabouts are unknown — see the Bali mystery last week — but because her Structure Nineteen excavation, in recent days, has revealed an interesting finds deposit.

We mentioned at the end of last week that its most obvious elements were a flake of imported pitchstone, a couple of polished pebbles and a sherd of decorated pottery.

The pitchstone and pebbles have been lifted and continuing work has resolved the pottery into an enormous slab, crushed over on itself and presenting a huge problem.

Pottery like this is difficult to lift from the ground.

Most would break up with excavation and be lifted in pieces, but Georgie has lots of experience and so has been tasked with lifting it intact.

It is an almost impossible challenge but we will let you know how she gets on.

Trench T has become even more mysterious today.

Trench T — a hive of activity today.

Trench T — a hive of activity today.

After the excitement of last week, when a wall line appeared at the bottom of the trench, possibly associated with a broken orthostat, a further parallel wall appeared this morning.

Is it a passageway, a recess or something else?

At present there is little sense to be made of the sequence of events, but this is hardly surprising given the range of midden deposits and quarry pits coming in from different directions.

How it all hangs together is simply not clear, but further excavation should begin to make some sense of what has happened there.

We end on the warmest congratulations to Mai, who left us last week, and Alice, who we now learn has landed themselves jobs with Cotswold Archaeology — the same team in which our Structure Ten supervisor, Sarah, is a senior archaeologist. The job couldn’t have gone to a nicer, or harder-working, pair. Well done Mai and Alice.

And that’s all for today. See you tomorrow.

From the Trenches

Today's blogger, Sydney.

Today’s blogger, Sydney.

Coming up on our last week in the trenches here at the Ness, the Willamette kids have had a multitude of experiences.

We’ve come from different parts of the USA, all looking for something more than just artefacts — from last-chance abroad experiences to seeing if the archaeology life is for us, I’d say that each of us has gotten what they came here for, and then some.

Working here in Trench T has been a wonderfully eye-opening experience. It’s had its ups and downs, beautifully sunny days as well as magnificently muddy ones. But through all of it, I found that Trench T has been able to capture my curiosity.

What started out as a pile of Neolithic waste deposits was uncovered to reveal so much more.

Layers of midden gave way to strange pits and then even a structure!

Hugo goes through some of your paperwork with Sarah, one of the new Leiden students.

Hugo goes through some of your paperwork with Sarah, one of the new Leiden students.

Finds have ranged from nicely worked flint tools to a human tooth, showing us (and everyone else here at the Ness) that we’ve only just skimmed the surface of what Trench T has to show us.

As an incoming second year anthropology student at University, being able to work on such a site, let alone say that I was here when something like a new structure has been uncovered, is truly a privilege.

This week's new intake bathe in wall-to-wall sunshine. Long may it last.

This week’s new intake bathe in wall-to-wall sunshine. Long may it last.

Not only have I learned things here that I would never have been able to in a classroom, I’ve learned to appreciate things that would never have even caught my eye had they been taught to me from a book.

After nearly a month working in the trench, I can recognise the difference between pottery and burnt stone from a mile away; I know that a variation in soil colour and texture screams that you’ve hit a new context and a pile of rocks all slanted in the same direction isn’t just a random formation.

What’s more, I find that I have a better time understanding the implications of all these things; that, after only a few short weeks here, I can use the information I’m uncovering to put together a timeline or an image of what life was like here at the Ness thousands of years ago.

I think I can confidently speak for my fellow Willamette peers when I say that we will truly miss working at such a magnificent, and thought-provoking, site as the Ness.

It’s true, Trench T might leave us with more questions than answers, but it will always be our trench (until the next group comes along . . . but even then).

We learn more and more every day working here and I certainly can’t wait to see what future seasons have to discover over there.

Sydney Sheehan

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