Dig Diary – Thursday, August 16, 2018

Day Thirty-Four

Second macehead of the season

Peter with the beautiful macehead found in Trench Y on Thursday.
Peter with the beautiful macehead found in Trench Y on Thursday.

We’ll break all the rules of diary writing and start with a couple of apologies.

If this diary is a little late in reaching you it is because at the end of today the weary Ness staff and diggers head off for the annual dig party.

This is, of course, an event of the utmost sobriety.

It is simply a quiet gathering, where some cups of tea are taken together with a little gentle conversation followed by an early bed.

But the wind has been howling throughout today and you know how that can cause tiredness, lethargy and even a little mild confusion.

A closer view of the macehead fragment.
A closer view of the macehead fragment.

The diary will be shorter today for exactly the same reason.

Windy or not, we have had a most interesting day.

Once again the gloomy predictions of nothing much happening because the end is nigh have been proved wrong.

In Trench Y, where the endless search for the putative wall continues, Peter uncovered a most unusual macehead.

It is broken at the perforation but has a peculiar square cross-section. It is also a lovely black-and-white coloured gneiss igneous rock and is highly polished.

It is so perfect there were dark suspicions that it originated with Chris Gee, our colleague who can make axe and maceheads indistinguishable from the real thing. Chris is, however, entirely innocent in this discovery of what is the second macehead of the excavation season.

The 'Brodgar Stone' found on the Ness in February 1925. (Picture courtesy of Orkney Library Photographic Archive)
The ‘Brodgar Stone’ found on the Ness in February 1925. (Picture courtesy of Orkney Library Photographic Archive)

Site director Nick enjoyed giving a tour of the site today to Peter Leith, a long-time friend of the Ness who lives close to the site.

Peter Leith with the camera used to photograph the 'Brodgar Stone' in 1925. he is pictured with his son and daughter John and Pat.
Peter Leith with the camera used to photograph the ‘Brodgar Stone’ in 1925. he is pictured with his son and daughter John and Pat.

It was Peter’s father who was associated with the discovery of the original Brodgar stone in 1925 with its beautiful incised decoration.

Indeed, it was Mr Leith Snr. who photographed the stone and today Peter delighted everyone by arriving with the actual glass-plate camera used by his father to take the historic picture.

Peter and camera were photographed at the North end of Structure Eight, where the stone was uncovered, making a lovely link with the past history of our archaeology.

The Northern Lights on Wednesday night. (Sue Shackelton)
The Northern Lights on Wednesday night. (Sue Shackleton)

To finish off, we have a most unusual photograph for you today.

It is a picture of the Plough (the astronomical one) with the blazing green Northern Lights which lit up the sky on Wednesday night.

The picture was taken by Sue Shackleton, wife of Peter, who is one of our diggers and who, we are assured, slept through the whole affair.

Lastly, we would like to remind you that there will be no digging tomorrow (Friday) as we will be resting up from the effects of too many cups of tea and preparing for our Open Day which takes place on Sunday. There will, however, be tours on site at 11 am and 3pm.


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