Dig Diary – Monday, July 16, 2018

Day Eleven

Travis and Emmanuel cleaning stone recovered from the environs of Structure Twenty-Six.
Travis and Emmanuel cleaning stone recovered from the environs of Structure Twenty-Six.

Keep calm and carry on digging…

Some of today's newcomers at work in the Trench J extension.
Some of today’s newcomers at work in the Trench J extension…

Today began with a great drawing of breath after the exertions of Sunday’s first Open Day of the season.

It was, as we expected, a huge success, with well over 750 visitors crowding around the site and filling our exhibitions at the nearby Stenness Community School.

Look out for our next Open Day. We’ll give you plenty of warning.

...and Trench T.
…and Trench T.

We were also delighted to welcome lots of new diggers this morning.

One party is led by our regular collaborator, Professor Scott Pike from Willamette University in Oregon, with 12 students and an intern, who will help Scott with his XRF analyses.

You can spot the Willamettes from a great distance, possibly from space, because they are all nicely equipped with shiny new equipment, jackets, boots and coats.

This makes eminent good sense as trying to pack these into a suitcase at the Oregon end is simply not feasible.  Better to equip here and bring smiles to the faces of Orkney shop owners.

Matt with the hollowed-out stone he recovered from Trench J this afternoon.
Matt with the hollowed-out stone he recovered from Trench J this afternoon.

We also have an equal number of students from the first contingent of the University of the Highlands and Islands Field School.

All of the new arrivals were put through induction, which sounds alarming but just involves health-and-safety information and an introduction to our finds system, geology, geomatics and sundry associated pieces of other essential information.

We also welcomed Rick Barton, who is the ORCA teaching project officer and Dr Antonia Thomas, our stone art expert, both of whom will monitor and help out with the UHI students.

While we are on personnel, we are delighted to have Sinead Marshall as the new supervisor for Structure Ten. Sinead comes to us on loan from the Museum of London Archaeology and has already had a hand-over from former supervisor, Sarah.

Trench J supervisor Paul checks on progress made tracking the path of the 'Great Wall of Brodgar'
Trench J supervisor Paul checks on progress made tracking the path of the ‘Great Wall of Brodgar’

If ever a structure need a detailed hand-over, Structure Ten is just the one.

The complex floor deposits, intermingled with various levelling layers, constitute an archaeological nightmare and removing them and getting down, safely, to the primary floor level will involve a good deal of head scratching, and perhaps a packet or two of Aspirin.

Half of the new students have been assigned to Trench T and the other half to Trench J, where the current task is to remove more of the infill between Structure Five and the northern part of the “Great Wall of Brodgar”.

Hugo's back!
Hugo’s back!

Defining the relationship between the two will be one of the crucial elements to understanding the sequence for the entire site, as it is now thought that the wall may be one of the early elements present.

We are also fortunate to have Hugo, a former supervisor, back working in Trench J for a week. He already has an interesting pottery rim sherd which may be quite early but which will require closer examination when it is dry.

On the subject of pottery, the intriguing Structure Twenty-Six, which sits in proximity to Structures Twelve, Ten and Thirty, has produced a most unusual rim sherd.

The stone axehead from the bottom of Trench J ready to lift...
The stone axehead from the bottom of Trench J ready to lift…

It is made of fine clay and has two small pellets of clay applied over the rim, almost like little straps.

It is most unusual but constitutes yet another example of a finely made type of pottery which is now appearing more regularly at the Ness.

Harry Kane may have been awarded the Golden Boot for the greatest number of World Cup goals, but the winner of our Golden Trowel for the best number of quality finds in a day goes to Sigurd Towrie.

Sigurd (still not wearing knee pads, please note, Mrs Towrie) discovered two polished stone artefacts today, one an axe and the other, a most interesting variant of the stone tool which we are calling a spatula. Keep it up, Sigurd.

The axehead bagged and tagged...
The axehead bagged and tagged…

Trench Y, where the hunt continues for the putative wall on the west side of the site, is still producing rubble but no wall face as yet. There is still a good deal of material to be shifted, so hopes have not died yet.

Lastly, there may be visitors to Orkney who would love to see the Ness but who don’t have transport from Kirkwall.

The answer is Orkney Heritage Tours, who are running tours from Kirkwall with the services of an archaeologist as guide. Bookings can be made online https://orkneyheritagetours.co.uk/or, we expect, at the Tourist Office in Kirkwall.

See you tomorrow.