Dig Diary – Monday, August 6, 2018

Day Twenty-Six

Emmanuelle, Mike and Marcus hard at work in the latest extension to Trench Y.
Emmanuelle, Mike and Marcus hard at work in the latest extension to Trench Y.

Two new structures named

Sponges and buckets were the order of the day this morning as diggers mopped up puddles and pools inside their trenches.
Sponges and buckets were the order of the day this morning as diggers mopped up puddles and pools inside their trenches.

Orkney weather never plays fair.

It can lure you into a warm, relaxed fuzzy-type of feeling, then swiftly biff you in the back of the neck with cold fast-moving rain.

So it was today, which started mild, drizzly and calm, encouraging supervisors to bring their paperwork out into the open.

Within minutes they were scurrying to retrieve it as a hefty wind leapt up from nowhere and the sun began to shine.

The newly christened Structure Thirty-Two in the Trench J extension.
The newly christened Structure Thirty-Two in the Trench J extension.

It must have baffled the new intake of diggers who arrived this morning, some of them never having been in Orkney before.

Luckily they were leavened by the return of several old friends such as former UHI students and experienced excavators coming for their annual Ness “fix”.

On the subject of fixes, we have mentioned already this year the subject of site director Nick’s urges and his struggles to deny them.

Aaron watches on from the side of the trench as Ray begins excavating his pot in Trench J.
Aaron watches on from the side of the trench as Ray begins excavating his pot in Trench J.

Usually they take the form of a desperate desire to extend a trench and an equally desperate attempt to do no such thing on ground of costs, effort required and the fact that we already have more than enough to cope with.

This mental wrestling is a terrible thing to behold, and usually ends in capitulation. So, this year we already have one new trench (Trench Y) which has been extended; Trench J, also extended and Trench T, extended twice.

It has happened again today.

Nick usually frowns ferociously when the subject is raised of christening a suspected new structure with a brand new number.

Today he has done just that, twice.

The first lucky number is Structure Thirty-One, which is the new designation for the earlier building which

Ray's upturned Grooved Ware pot, nestled deliberately between two stones.
Ray’s upturned Grooved Ware pot, nestled deliberately between two stones.

has been identified under Structure One.

The second is Structure Thirty-Two, which is in the extension to Trench J and post-dates Structure Five.

It is possible that readers are now in a state of confusion. All we can suggest is a lie down in a cool, dark room or a glance at the site map.

In Trench J, work is moving fast to remove the collapse material on and around Structure Thirty-Two.

Trench T, with Structure Twenty-Seven in the foreground.
Trench T, with Structure Twenty-Seven in the foreground.

An external hearth has turned up in the area and this afternoon Ray began to excavate a nice little Grooved Ware pot which lay upside down between two stones.

Nick has been heard to say with some vehemence that Trench J will not be extended and that Structure Thirty-Two must remain part hidden. We’ll see.

Progress in Trench T has also been remarkably fast.

Sierra with a decorated pot shard from the midden baulk filling the outer passage of Structure Ten.
Sierra with a decorated pot shard from the midden baulk filling the outer passage of Structure Ten.

The midden which is cloaking the enigmatic Structure Twenty-Seven is disappearing and everyone expects the imminent discovery of more orthostats.

There has been considerable thought into the exact nature of Structure Twenty-Seven.

Is it, as initially suggested, some sort of stalled tomb on the lines of Midhowe, on the island of Rousay, or could it be something quite different?

The latter is now thought to be likely, but we are reluctant to say much more until excavation progresses further.

A close-up of Sierra's pot sherd.
A close-up of Sierra’s pot sherd.

A clue, for those sharp enough to spot it, can be found in Nick’s 2018 lecture in Kirkwall, which is available here.

The heroes of Trench Y tackled their extension this morning.

They are a remarkable bunch for it was expected that de-turfing of the area might have been accomplished by lunchtime, but lunch saw that done and excavation well advanced.

We shudder to think how many tons of material they have removed but we hope that mechanical aid is available for the eventual backfill.

More big stones have started to appear at the bottom of the trench but not in situ, at least not in position for a wall.

They won’t give up, though, and the wall may still be there.

As will we…tomorrow.

Structure Eight this afternoon.
Structure Eight this afternoon.

  • Please help keep the dig running - donate.