Dig Diary – Thursday, August 6, 2015

Day Twenty-Four

The east entrance to Structure Twelve, complete with its two flanking standing stones, is further explored by Tom.

The east entrance to Structure Twelve, complete with its two flanking standing stones, is further explored by Tom.

Rain and shine

We have been plagued by the weather yet again. When we arrived in the morning it was pouring and it continued that way until lunch-time. It was so bad that site director Nick granted many of the diggers a late start, although supervisors huddled in their various huts and cabins and managed to catch up with a good deal of paperwork.

A rather soggy Trench T.

A rather soggy Trench T this morning.

The Willamettes had the good fortune to find Structure Ten supervisor, Sarah Cobain, with some spare time, so she gave them an impromptu seminar on her own speciality — environmental archaeology.

With all the rain of recent weeks, the site is not draining as freely as previously.

After every downpour it is now necessary to get out the buckets and sponges, but even after that has been done there are some areas which remain distinctly damp.

There is, of course, nothing that we can do about the weather and the best option is just to concentrate on the excellent archaeology, which continues to surprise us all.

Mai and Jim reveal more of the holed stone in Structure Twelve.

Mai and Jim reveal more of the holed stone in Structure Twelve.

A perfect example came yesterday, with further work taking place around the peculiar stone, with a large hole, which is located at the south end of Structure Twelve.

We mentioned this in the previous diary and suggested it would be some time before it was removed in order to retain it in context.

That stricture still applies, but work near it by Mai — on her last day — has shown that it contains a very solid, white concretion of unknown material.

The best we can hope for is that Scott’s portable XRF machine will be able to register the elements in the concretion. That is a task for tomorrow.

In Structure Ten, Mark is working carefully around the orthostat (upright stone) which stands near the centre of the building, beside the hearth.

The central chamber of Structure Ten, as Mark prepares to remove the decorated and pick-dressed orthostat.

The central chamber of Structure Ten, as Mark prepares to remove the decorated and pick-dressed orthostat.

Chris Gee with his 'Swiss-Army-Stone-Tool'.

Chris Gee with his ‘Swiss-Army-Stone-Tool’.

This is decorated with incision on one side and a beautifully pecked curve on one edge. It is in danger of becoming damaged and the decision has been made to remove it, even though this will have to be done slightly out of sequence.

The tactic adopted by Mark is to excavate a small sondage around it to reveal the construction cut and packing. Hopefully it can then be eased out without mishap.

In the south-west robber cut of the same building, Jay, Claire and Chris Gee have continued to remove backfill, but Chris has uncovered what he calls his Neolithic Swiss-Army-knife.

The bone tool next to its modern-day equivalent.

The bone tool next to its modern-day equivalent.

This is an apparently multi-purpose tool which has heavy impact marks (bashing) at one point, grinding marks at another and signs of smoothing at yet another.  There are, however, no signs of anything to remove stones from horse’s hooves.

In the remnants of the Central Midden Area, Jenny had one of those odd moments which crop up in excavation.

She carefully excavated a small bone tool using one of her pottery tools, only to find that her tool and the bone tool appear almost identical. For the same purpose? Well, it’s possible.

The sun is now shining so we’ll enjoy it and see you tomorrow.

From the Trenches

The Willamettes are introduced to the joys of environmental archaeology by Structure Ten supervisor, Sarah.

The Willamettes are introduced to the joys of environmental archaeology by Structure Ten supervisor, Sarah.

It’s Jay from New Zealand again.

Unlike my prediction of two weeks ago, I wasn’t sent off to level the spoil heap, but I am furthering my rounds of each of the different buildings.

After Owain’s, I moved on to help Georgie in Structure Nineteen, which is underneath where Structure Seven. Of the ten days there, I spent three planning areas, both unplanned since 2012, and new areas Georgie has been uncovering.

Apparently, you can see me moving around the planning frame in the pale blue jacket in Hugo’s time-lapse photography last week – which I imagine is quite amusing (my internet’s not working so I have yet to entertain myself with it).

What a difference a few hours make. Trench T supervisors Dave and Ben have discussions, this afternoon, in brilliant sunshine.

What a difference a few hours make. Trench T supervisors Dave and Ben have discussions, this afternoon, in brilliant sunshine.

Although hard on your back, I enjoy planning – there is a real sense of accomplishment as the blue milar sheet of squares fills with dark grey lines, dashes, and hashes.

Since yesterday, I’m now working in Structure Ten, removing the robber-fill above the western corner.

This is totally different work. Rather than delicately trying not to remove more than a few mm with my leaf trowel, this rubble is a little soil mixed with lots and lots of tiny pieces of laminate from decomposed rock.

The only means to move it is to get your trowel in there and tell it to move! It’s enlightening to experience these differences around the site. It still thrills me that there can be so many different textures, feels and sounds to (essentially) dirt and, that on top of the fact that, that dirt has been sitting in the same place for thousands of years.

P.S. Hoy continues to be enchanting each day. Like watching the ocean, it changes constantly, giving different sensations whenever you glance at it.

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