Dig Diary — Monday, August 19, 2013

Day Twenty-Six

Andy finishes off the cleaning of the colourful floor deposits in Structure One.

Andy finishes off the cleaning of the colourful floor deposits in Structure One.

Today is a race against time, with the last week of excavation already started and a large amount of necessary finalising work still to be carried out.

Sunday’s appalling weather left many of the surfaces and sections smeared, smudged and generally in a disgusting condition. These have to be cleaned down and prettified ready for final photography.

Stewart removes the last of the blocking to the southern entrance to Structure One.

Stewart removes the last of the blocking to the southern entrance to Structure One.

The back-breaking work of final planning has to be undertaken, with planners bent over their frames and carefully noting down small details in windy and wet conditions, which can almost never be said to be ideal.

In some areas, at least, the actual work of excavation continues.

The last vestige of the blocking to the south entrance of Structure One was removed this afternoon, showing that the original entrance was quite wide and was only narrowed later, thereby resembling the eastern entrance to Structure Fourteen.

In Structure Twelve, the central baulk has at long last gone, revealing the very nice robbing cut for the central east pier.

The section which has been exposed there was expected to show a series of floors. Instead, it seems to consist of a single, large deposition of clay.

The interpretation of this surprising situation suggests that there has been some hasty replacing, or repairing, of the structure floor in this area. This, in turn, suggests that slumping caused by imminent building collapse was the reason for the dump of clay.

Structure Twelve may not, therefore, have been as stable as it should, or could, have been.

At the annexe end of Structure Twelve, the hoped-for cist has turned out to be just a setting for a stone cist, albeit with a large piece of decorated Grooved Ware pottery at the bottom.

In the interests of absolute accuracy, Mic wants us to point out that it was Mark who uncovered the feature and the pot to the side. Mic merely completed the work, although ’merely’ is not the apposite word.

King and Queen of spoil heap - Seb and Tansy.

King and Queen of spoil heap – Seb and Tansy.

At the end of the west side of Structure Eight, Dave and Nick have been pondering the sequencing and relationships between Structures Eight, Seventeen, Nineteen, Seven and Eleven.

It’s not just the numbering system which is confusing but, after a good deal of head-scratching the underlying relationships were sorted out to Nick’s satisfaction.

We were astonished after the morning tour to find one of the visitors holding a beautiful, polished stone macehead.

Where had it come from…surely not from the spoil heap?

Actually, he had made it. Stuart Broadhurst, from Penrith, is a man of many talents, one of which is making stone maceheads in the Neolithic manner and using traditional techniques rather than power tools.

He told us it had taken 160 hours of hard work. The task of drilling the hole, for the handle, had been accomplished initially using a hard wood point on a simple bow drill, sand and olive oil, although Stuart believes that the Ness folk would have used fish oil.

As tiny fragments of stone were removed from the area for the hole, Stuart initially brushed them away. Then he realised that he should push them back into the emerging hole to provide extra friction.

Stuart Broadhurst and his exquisitely modern replica of a macehead.

Stuart Broadhurst and his exquisitely modern replica of a macehead.

After that, he said, matters progressed more quickly, although one of the most difficult elements was drilling the hole from both sides so that it met in the middle.

He plans now to make another one.

We had several interesting visitors today.

Roff Smith, an old friend and writer for National Geographic magazine, has arrived to research a new article, this time for the Lonely Planet magazine.

We were also visited by the highly talented archaeological illustrator and reconstruction expert Aaron Watson, who has already produced impressions of what the Ness might have looked like, and may produce some more.

The two Jims continue to photograph for National Geographic magazine and Jim Richardson will give an illustrated lecture on his work at the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, on Tuesday evening at 8pm. That should not be missed.

Immense thanks also to Georgie’s mum, Janet, for delicious cake and a large pile of plastic mushroom crates for holding finds. There is nothing better for bone-weary diggers than an injection of cake. Even a windy, miserable day can suddenly feel better so, thanks, Janet.

We have, you may have noticed, no more views from the trenches. This is because the students, both UHI and Willamette, have left.

Those diggers who remain are working far too hard to have a view on anything, other than finishing the task at hand.

See you tomorrow.

The internal space of Structure 12 is wholly revealed, with the final removal of the baulk - monumental!

The internal space of Structure Twelve is wholly revealed, with the final removal of the baulk – monumental!

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