Dig Diary — Sunday, August 18, 2013

Day Twenty-Five

A rather bedragled Nick tries to smile through the teeth of the storm as he enthuses to the OAS membership.

A rather bedraggled Nick tries to smile through the teeth of the storm as he enthuses to the OAS membership.

And the wild winds blew . . .

Today was Open Day at the Ness, and it rained, and howled and rained some more.

At one point, Hugo alarmed everyone by walking around the site measuring the wind speed with his wind gauge. That is the piece of equipment he normally deploys when preparing to launch “The Flying Mattress” kite into the air. Thankfully, he had no such notions today. He was merely measuring the wind speed out of a spirit of scientific enquiry (or perhaps sheer masochism).

Top speed for the day was a gust of 48mph, but, for most of the day, the wind maintained a steady, energy-sapping 44mph.

There was no digging. That goes without saying for the conditions in the trenches were treacherous underfoot, but every day on site is precious as we have so few each summer.

Keith gathers a small crowd for a very wet tour.

Keith gathers a small crowd for a very wet tour.

Site director Nick took a large party of Orkney Archaeology Society members on their annual site visit and tour.

Their fortitude was amazing for their visit seemed to coincide with the very worst of the morning weather.

To their credit they stuck it out to the end, even when Nick, quite superfluously we would suggest, insisted on regaling them with the problems experienced with the site septic tank.

Luckily, they did not believe him when he described, in graphic detail, how students were lowered head first into the tank to facilitate the emptying and cleaning process.

We want to assure everyone (especially their mums) no students have been injured as a result of the making of this site.

Nick's pot — could this be the start of a beautiful relationship?

Nick’s pot — could this be the start of a beautiful relationship?

The same remarkable spirit was shown by the surprisingly large number of visitors to the site today.

The only annoying thing about them was that, when it was suggested that a tour could be cut a little short due to conditions, they insisted on bellowing back through the wind and rain, “No, no, we’re fine. Let’s go on a bit further”. So they did, and all credit to them.

And all credit to the Historic Scotland Rangers, Sandra, Elaine and Keith who helped out with the tours while also carrying out their own duties for Historic Scotland.

The diggers had the worst of it today.

Sandra gives some intrepid visitors a taste of some of the finds.

Sandra gives some intrepid visitors a taste of some of the finds.

Although excavation was impossible, they all buckled down to the horrible task of moving the dirty, slippy earth bags which constitute part of the weight for holding down the protective black plastic over the winter and supporting vulnerable masonry.

These were taken from their storage points and place on the trench edge around the site so that they can more easily be moved into position when the task of covering begins.

After that was finished, the supervisors dispersed to whatever dry corners they could find to carry on with task of filling in endless context sheets and tackling the horrors of the Harris matrix — the detailed site record with all inter-relationships faithfully included.

Nick was also spotted in the finds hut cleaning pottery, something which is very rarely seen.

Perhaps he has, like Professors Edmonds and Richards, discovered a new, fresh and all-absorbing interest in pottery, while simultaneously ditching any residual hankering for fripperies like carved stone balls, polished stone axes, worked flint, and the like. Then again, perhaps not.

Thank you to all the hardy souls who ventured to the Ness today — not quite the 1,500 we had last year but still a rewarding turnout.

We will be back tomorrow when the weather will be better. Ah well, we can only hope.

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