Dig Diary – Monday, July 30, 2018

Day Twenty-One

Selling like hot cakes - Woody Musgrove's photographic record of the 2017 excavation. Get your copy now (and help boost excavation funds in the process) before stocks run out.
Selling like hot cakes – Woody Musgrove’s photographic record of the 2017 excavation. Get your copy now (and help boost excavation funds in the process) before stocks run out.

Thank you faithful readers…

We can hardly believe it. This is week five and we are now half-way through the excavation for this year – so where has the time gone?

Nick welcomed a new group of students this morning, some from our own University of the Highlands and Islands and a smattering of others from august establishments like University College, London.

Through the window - Jan and Georgie at work in Ness HQ this afternoon.
Through the window – Jan and Georgie at work in Ness HQ this afternoon.

Familiar faces also appeared, including Tonnie, for the umpteenth year; Christine, from Edinburgh, and the welcome return of Georgie, a former UHI student and long-time Ness digger now working for Historic Environment Scotland. Georgie proves that our talented UHI students do get the best jobs.

She will be working with Jan on a very important task.

In past years, some pottery has had to be excavated in large blocks, including the midden material which surrounds it.

These blocks have been quietly drying in our stores but we have learned (and Jan has proved) that careful excavation of the blocks can reveal some wonderful pottery.

So, armed with a variety of tools, most of which are capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm, they are carefully dissecting the blocks of material.

We’ll let you know what they find.

Another current research project at the Ness involves David and Helen Smith who have been examining the small clay balls which have been found on site.

They have weighed, measured and catalogued them and, taking matters further, the clay balls have now been zapped by Scott’s portable XRF machine, which should tell us something of their composition.

They have also been in touch with museums to seek further information about the examples in their collections and Helen, as a talented photographer, has been taking detailed images of the balls.

The view from the Trench T extension, showing the orthostat and at the top of the picture its suspected counterpart.
The view from the Trench T extension, showing the orthostat and at the top of the picture its suspected counterpart.

Site director Nick is a conflicted man, torn dreadfully in different directions.

On the one hand he is acutely aware of the huge effort which goes into excavating those parts of the site which we have already uncovered.

On the other hand, he fairly itches to extend trenches when indications appear that something fascinating may be just across the horizon or, to be more accurate, a little further into the current trench edge.

To extend or not to extend, that is most definitely the question.

Well, as of this morning his basic urges have won out.

Trench T has been extended, although by little more than half of a square metre.

The reason is a most intriguing orthostat (upright stone) which looks as if it matches, and is on the same alignment, as one further down the trench, which in itself may represent a stalled division of Structure Twenty-Seven.

The de-turfing and excavation of the small extended area has happened quickly and, elsewhere in Trench T, the team have dealt with the remnants of the pesky pits and, under Cristina’s direction, are now making significant inroads into the blanketing midden.

We will tell you what happens next.

Emmanuelle and Marcus at work on the Trench Y extension this afternoon.
Emmanuelle and Marcus at work on the Trench Y extension this afternoon.

Whisper it, but there is another small trench extension in Trench Y, where the putative wall has not yet appeared.

Hopes are high that it will be there as hints of basal coursing are beginning to appear. The new extension might well serve to clarify matters.

We have to warn you all that Woody Musgrove’s magnificent book of black-and-white photographs of the Ness, entitled Ness of Brodgar: Open to the Public, is selling like the proverbial hot cakes.

A few copies can still be bought from our online shop, so hurry.

Not only will you secure a fantastic photographic record of last year’s excavation, but with 50 per cent of profits going directly to the excavation fund, you will help secure the future of the dig.

Lastly, we want to thank all our faithful readers.

Last July there were some 70,000 hits on the Daily Diary. This July looks like easily exceeding that number.

We are grateful for your interest, and for your continuing support of this internationally important archaeological site.

See you all tomorrow.