Dig Diary – Thursday, August 9, 2018

Day Twenty-Nine

Joining the dots in ‘bling central’

The antler found in Structure Eight today - possibly the largest found on site to date.
The antler found in Structure Eight today – possibly the largest found on site to date.

We haven’t mentioned Structure Eight much lately.

Formerly known as “bling central” because of the extravagance of the artefacts found within it (whalebone mace- head, spatulas, whale tooth etc), it has been rather quiet this season.

Not now.

Natasha excavating the antler.
Natasha excavating the antler.

Working in one of the recesses along the exterior wall this afternoon Natasha found what initially appeared to be a group of bones.

As she cleaned further it became clear that it was a large piece of antler complete with tines, and possibly the largest antler we have yet found.

The antler is clearly associated with Structure Eight rather than, for instance, relating to Structure Eighteen which lies underneath Structure Eight.

Mission accomplished.
Mission accomplished.

Further work taking place in the all-important recesses has produced more evidence of the wall lines of Structures Seventeen and Eighteen and, as site director Nick says, the dots are joining up to give a much better understanding of the relationship between Structure Eight and the earlier buildings lying beneath.

Clearing of the last of the midden outside Structure Eight’s south end, between Structures Eight and Ten, has, surprisingly, uncovered more stonework from the outer face of Structure Eight.

Hannah at work in Structure Eight this afternoon.
Hannah at work in Structure Eight this afternoon.

Perhaps more surprisingly, further work nearby has uncovered several blocks of stone in a line.

They clearly don’t relate to anything existing but are they part of Structure Twenty, under Structure Ten?  Or are they part of Structures Twenty-Three and Twenty-Four under the north end of Structure Twelve? Or are they something completely new?

Cristina and students in Trench T...
Cristina and students in Trench T…

One thing is certain, the Ness does not encourage complacency.

Still with Structure Eight, the floor deposits at the south end have now been dealt with and attention is turning to those at the north end.

You will not be surprised to hear that this will not be plain sailing as the deposits at the north end are clearly more complex than those further down the building.

Clearing the midden in Trench T.
Clearing the midden in Trench T.

Just to complicate matters, more of Structure Eighteen underneath also appears at the north end.

Trench T is progressing at a great pace, led by the energy and commitment of Cristina and Rick. The excavating team are also working wonders and at last, at long last, those pesky pits are now a thing of the past.

This means that work can continue in earnest to remove the remaining midden which is still obscuring essential areas of Structure Twenty-Seven.

The southern wall line of Structure Twenty-Seven - showing the massive four-metre-long orthostats flanked by stones.
The southern wall line of Structure Twenty-Seven – showing the four-metre-long orthostats flanked by stone slabs.

There is even a chance, Nick says, that the dream of clearing much of the midden from the structure at the bottom of the trench may be accomplished by the time Cristina, Rick and many of the diggers leave, which is the end of next week. We will keep you informed of progress.

Nice finds are emerging from Trench T.

The latest is several sherds from a vessel with a scalloped rim and complex decoration involving plain and serpentine cordons. The pot is still drying and needs gentle cleaning but we will show you a picture to explain what this means in the near future.

We confess to mischief-making on Tuesday when we suggested that pottery might tell us more about the peoples of the Neolithic than stone tools.

We believe this of course, absolutely and completely, but in the interests of academic rigour we should tell you that the eminent expert in stone tools, Ann Clarke, begs to differ.

This is not surprising and Ann is one of the few people with whom we would hesitate to argue.

So, in the interests of fairness, we suggest to all those interested in the debate that they read a paper by Ann entitled Does size matter? : Stone axes from Orkney: their style and deposition.

It is an excellent read but, sorry Ann, the diarist disagrees.

Until tomorrow, that is…


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