Dig Diary – Monday, August 4, 2014

Day Sixteen

Structure One from Hugo's polecam. The southern, original, entrance is in the foreground, with the later eastern entrance on the right.

Structure One from Hugo’s polecam. The southern, original, entrance is in the foreground, with the later eastern entrance on the right.

Getting complicated in Structure One

Structure One has been primped and polished to within an inch of its life today and is looking beautiful.

Hugo took more excellent photographs of it using his pole-on-a-camera – although how he held the pole steady in the strong wind, which has whined and howled across the Ness since midday, is a mystery.

Inside the structure, more work has been carried out on the major yellow clay floor which is part of Phase Two in the life of the building (when it was much reduced in internal area by the insertion of a large curving wall).

However, the excavation of the cut for the threshold stone in the eastern wall (the one with the strange box feature in its interior) shows that it also cuts the yellow clay floor. If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is – horribly so.

What it means, though, is that the box entrance represents a second phase in Phase Two of the structure. There are also signs that the south entrance may have been reduced in size, for unknown reasons, when it was in use.

It would be entirely reasonable if readers of the above three paragraphs took an aspirin and went to lie down in a darkened room. We promise to make things simpler in the future.

The last remains of the midden baulk are removed south of Structure One.

The last remains of the midden baulk are removed south of Structure One.

In the area to the south of Structure One, the massive midden baulk is now nearing the end of its life.

A team of diggers have been whittling away at it since last week and when it is gone (recorded but not really lamented) there will be a huge difference in the visual aspect and understanding of this part of the site.

It will be possible to hook up, mentally, the different sections of this important area and to make sense of the numerous small walls, which are visible but not really comprehensible at the moment.

Back to Structure Eleven

We haven’t mentioned Structure Eleven this year because it is a bizarre little affair, somewhat shapeless and situated to the south east of Structure One.

Those who have viewed the site from the platform often point it out because it contains the strange orthostat (upright stone) with the hole.

Mac has been digging there, when not engaging in some heavy-duty site recording, but his work has started to pay dividends. To everyone’s astonishment he has uncovered a hearth. Structure Eleven now joins the big boy’s club, although what to make of it is still a puzzle. It is later than Structure One and probably later than Structure Eight but more evidence is required. We will keep you posted.

Mic soldiers on with his massive pot deposit in Structure Twelve.

Mic soldiers on with his massive pot deposit in Structure Twelve.

In Structure Twelve, Mic continues to excavate his huge spread of pot.  When work began on the spread, site director Nick remembers Mic as a young man with short dark hair. He now has a grey beard and long hair, and he’s still finding more pot.

Cattle toes in the entrance

In the entrance to Structure Ten, the bone deposit to one side of the 1.81-metre-wide entrance has turned out to be entirely cattle toe bones.

The huge base stone, (or entrance mat) can now be seen to be carefully trimmed and dressed round one side.

Incidentally, we must apologise to Dr Ingrid Mainland for any suggestion that the positioning of diggers, suspended on a hard lattice of wooden planks over her bone sondage on the other side of the structure could in any way be described as torture. Ingrid wants it to be known that she is a strong supporter of the European Convention on Human Rights. She just can’t remember if she ever signed it.

Our distinguished visitor today was Liam MacArthur, our MSP. Liam has always been a supporter of archaeology and his interest and knowledge are valued by the Ness team. He can visit any time.

Until tomorrow . . .

Structure Ten Entrance

Amazing what the Neolithic folk left for us – a welcome mat in the entrance to Structure Ten is considered by Ingrid, along with the cattle toe bone deposit.

From the Trenches

The loneliness of the single digger. Mac reveals the hearth in Structure Eleven.

The loneliness of the single digger. Mac reveals the hearth in Structure Eleven.

My name is Laura and I am an Archaeology and Studio Art major from Willamette University. The dirt pile and sand box are probably to blame for my wish to become an archaeologist but included in that should also be the infamous Indiana Jones, who, in retrospect, is a horrid archaeologist.

Before coming to the Ness, my whole aim was to learn, of course, but also largely just to get into the dirt and dig.

For the past two weeks most of the Willamette students (myself included) have been working in Trench T which is slightly set apart from the major part of the site (Trench P). Because there are no structures except for the mysterious wall in the upper part of T, the “walls” of the lower trench are mostly pure dirt which allows you to see the stratigraphy which is much clearer than I had thought it would be.

For the past few days though I have had the opportunity to work next to (not in) Structure Twelve, in an area where lots of interesting pottery has been turning up.

Out of luck I’ve been place in the corner where the pots seem to be this season and so far there have been three larger pieces with beautiful cordons on them.

This being my first every dig I am so excited to be able to work uncovering and cleaning the dirt from the pots. The tools used look something like what you would expect to find in a dentist office and it’s so much fun (of course very serious, important fun) to pick away the dirt and see the patterns and colour of the pot’s surface. Hopefully there will be plenty of new finds to come.

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