Dig Diary – Thursday, July 12, 2018

Day Nine

Surrounded by archaeology. Doug at work in Trench J.
Surrounded by archaeology – Doug at work in Trench J.

Agreement in Trench T

Trench T supervisor Cristina with some of her digging team this afternoon.
Trench T supervisor Cristina with some of her digging team this afternoon.

We have no wish to be critical of our profession, but if two or three archaeologists are gathered together it is wise to expect at least six differing opinions, all of them held with equal passion.

This applies only to questions concerning archaeology. On the issue of buying a round in a pub it is normal to find archaeologists in absolute agreement in being last to the bar.

For these reasons it is refreshing, if not downright amazing, to find two of our leading lights in complete accord on one of our major trenches.

Site director Nick and Trench T supervisor Cristina have spent part of today going over the many complicated issues presented by Trench T and the enigmatic Structure Twenty-Seven, which lurks at its base.

They have looked at existing progress and discussed in great detail the way forward. And they agree. Completely.

This should further speed up work on the trench which has already seen interesting developments in the last few hours.

Iron Age pot

Excavating the Iron Age remodelling section at the top of Trench T.
Excavating the Iron Age remodelling section at the top of Trench T.

Neolithic fans might consider the top of the trench, where there are Iron Age features, less interesting than the Neolithic structures at the base.

This would be a mistake, for understanding exactly what the Iron Age people meant by their wall, ditch and bank is a legitimate and knotty question.

The saving grace is the Iron Age pottery, much of it distinctive and, to diggers weary from retrieving the mangled crumbs which constitute many later Grooved Ware vessels, a pleasant change.

Just such a vessel has emerged day, comprising a flat base and much of the wall of an apparent Iron Age pot. Catriona has excavated it with great care, particularly as she considers it one of the nicer finds from her many years at the Ness.

The finds hut team have been kept busy today, with goodies from all four trenches.
The finds hut team were kept busy today, with archaeological goodies from all four trenches.

We will have to look closely when it emerges finally and is carefully curated and dried by finds supervisor Anne and her dedicated team, but at the moment it look like a nice example of Iron Age ceramics.

There are even more pressing reasons for being careful with the top of Trench T.

Last year, an extraordinary pot sherd emerged from a level identified as the interface between the Iron Age and Neolithic levels. It was a sherd decorated with, principally, large tear-drop pellets applied to the exterior surface.

Marcus, Mike and Declan cleaning the stone spread in Trench Y.
Marcus, Mike and Declan cleaning the stone spread in Trench Y.

It is instantly recognisable as an excellent example of the heavy plastic decoration on Grooved Ware vessels from Skara Brae and Rinyo on the island of Rousay. As such it is probably the only example yet found at the Ness of such decoration, and all the more remarkable for that. 

It also constitutes a warning to us all never to be too relaxed about the pottery we uncover here as even the most modest, mud-encrusted sherd can constitute vital evidence when cleaned and analysed.

In Structure One, the very last remnants of the curving inserted Phase Two wall are being removed and attention is now turning to the two drains in the north-east corner and to removing the narrowing effect in the south entrance.

There are also high hopes of discovering more of the decorated stone which is such a feature of Structure One.

Screenshot of Jim's digital reconstruction of Structure Eight.

Screenshot of Jim's digital reconstruction of Structure Eight.

Screenshot of Jim's digital reconstruction of Structure Eight.
Screenshots of Jim’s digital reconstruction of Structure Eight.

Jim is continuing the mammoth task of gathering images and processing them in order to produce a 3D model of Structure Eight.

As we mentioned yesterday, we have high hopes that this will eventually appear on Sketchfab for everyone to enjoy. (Sketchfab can be accessed for viewing amazing 3D models and images, particularly archaeological ones, by simply conducting a search).

Remember the Open Day…

Today is the last day of our week.

We have tomorrow off in preparation for our first Open Day, which takes place on Sunday.

There will be continuous tours taking place at the Ness, and at the Stenness community hall nearby there will be further exhibitions of our work and that most essential element of an Orcadian Sunday… tea and homebakes.

See you there.