Dig Diary – Monday, July 13, 2015

Day Six

Structure Twelve from above.

Structure Twelve from above.

The start of week two . . .

Well, it’s not exactly like summer but at least there’s no precipitation. You may all wonder about the word “precipitation” — a term much-loved by weather forecasters in the United States. We’re thinking of adopting it at the Ness.

It sounds so much more elegant than “rain” and, from the point of view of the daily dig diary, on a quiet day it takes up 13 letters-worth of space, as opposed to a miserable four for “rain”. Don’t tell Nick, though.

Actually, today has been far from quiet.

Three of the new faces at the Ness today.

Three of the new faces at the Ness today.

It began with the arrival of a new intake of diggers, including several from our own programmes at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

In among them were several veterans of previous years at the Ness but, veteran or not, they all had to endure the safety lecture — which ranges from warnings about running on site to detailed instructions for the amputation of legs, above and below the knee, in the event of accidents with mattocks.

One of the ZDF film crew in Structure Twelve.

One of the ZDF film crew in Structure Twelve.

Tourists turned up in their hundreds and continue to surprise us with their keen interest and knowledge of both archaeology and the Ness in particular.

Most of them leave clutching the new guidebook (available online and in bookshops) which, we stress, is not just a repetition of what they hear on tours but an attempt to inform and draw them into the wider questions surrounding the Neolithic.

Throughout the morning they were also entertained by a film team from ZDF, a national television station in Germany.

They will focus on the Ness as part of a programme on Scotland and even hired a cherry-picker to take some aerial shots.

Their programme will broadcast, in November, at prime time on a Sunday — a slot, they tell us, that regularly has five million plus viewers. Luckily, we already have the guidebook translated into German in anticipation of a rush of visitors next year.

Despite these distractions, archaeological work continued apace.

Sarah starts cleaning the floors in Structure Ten.

Sarah starts cleaning the floors in Structure Ten.

In Structure Ten, Sarah is back as supervisor of the central chamber and, despite the horrendous complexity of that area, feels that she may have identified a secondary entrance to the structure.

Nick, however, feels that the feature may be an intra-mural chamber. We will keep you informed.

Meanwhile, in Structure Eight, a conference was held in the afternoon.

This involved several archaeologists doing what archaeologists do best — which is standing, talking and, above all, pointing. Important decisions were being made.

Micromorphologist Jo McKenzie is with us for an extended period this year, which is very good news indeed.

Colin reveal a new pecked design in the east entrance to Structure Twelve.

Colin reveals a new pecked design in the east entrance to Structure Twelve.

She will be concentrating on sampling and analysing the floors in the structure and will be complimented by XRF analysis (don’t ask, we’ll tell you later), which will be carried out by Professor Scott Pike, from Willamette University, Oregon.

At least we hope it will.

Scott seems to have damaged an ankle somewhere in deepest, darkest Scotland, no doubt playing football (sorry, soccer). We hope for his imminent recovery and arrival.

Structure Twelve is still without supervisor Jim, who has been delayed by a family illness but should be here next week.

Anne Teather is standing in for him at the moment and is assisted by Seb, a veteran inmate.

They have been cleaning the floors while Colin, fresh from the Iron Age and The Cairns, in South Ronaldsay, has discovered a pecked circle on a stone just inside the east entrance.

This is turning out to be quite a fancy entrance, as it also features two flanking standing stones on its exterior.

The precipitation is still holding off, so, until tomorrow . . .

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