Dig Diary – Thursday, July 23, 2015

Day Fourteen

Looking superb after a light initial wash — the polished stone axe from Structure One.

Looking superb after a light initial wash — the polished stone axe from Structure One.

Windswept, but interesting

Well, there is precipitation; there is horizontal precipitation and there is wind-assisted, horizontal precipitation. Today we had the wind-assisted variety and it made for a most miserable morning.

Structure Twelve's team, deep in thought, considering the strategy for today.

Structure Twelve’s team, deep in thought, considering the strategy for today.

We will not dwell on the sufferings of the diggers, but will merely record that nobody has drowned (yet) and that the abrasions caused by stinging rain do fade after a while —  but only after the application of dermatological cream. Who would be a digger?

In one of the nice ironies which pepper archaeology, especially in Orkney, what was one of the worst mornings on record led to exciting discoveries.

In the midst of the rain, Dan and Hugo were discussing the similarities between their respective structures — One and Fourteen. The two buildings are closely contemporary and, in both, the removal of orthostatic divisions seem to define a fundamental change of use.

The difference between them, put crudely, is bling.

Structure Fourteen has yielded delights such as cushion stones and the wonderful “sky” axe (which features prominently in our new guidebook — available on site, in good bookshops and on the internet at a ridiculously low price).

Structure One, however, although handsome, has been notably bling-free.

Andy starts to reveal the new, polished stone axe in Structure One.

Andy starts to reveal the new, polished stone axe in Structure One.

A scant 30 minutes after this conversation, Andy, on clearing the south recess in Structure One, discovered what appeared to be the butt end of an unremarkable hammerstone.

But a second glance showed that it was actually a beautiful, polished stone axe, fashioned from local Camptonite rock and very similar to a snapped one found in Structure Eight last year.

Clearly, this was a deliberate deposit and akin to those found at the nearby sites of Crossiecrown and the Barnhouse Settlement. We are delighted for Andy, who is an experienced digger but who has never found an axe.

We are also delighted for Structure One — for so long the bling bridesmaid and never the bride.

Archaeology is, however, a hard affair.

Structure Fourteen's contender for find of the day.

Structure Fourteen’s contender for find of the day.

Structure Fourteen struck back and struck back hard. The interior of the structure had been badly affected by rain, making it unwise to work on, or near, the precious and delicate floor deposits.

Accordingly, Hugo and Woody turned their attentions to the late paving in the north-east entrance.

They uncovered the original paving outside the entrance and, on examining a small patch of rubble sitting beyond it, found an incised stone featuring nested triangles and cross-hatching.

How unfair is that?

Meanwhile, in Trench T, the Willamettes were having a hard time.

The rain had rendered their long, steep trench into something reminiscent of a ski-jump slope, so they were pulled out for their own safety — only to be given wheelbarrows full of rock to be deposited in the entrance to the field.

This is a valuable task because some visiting vehicles, in particular camper-vans and mini-coaches, were churning up the ground badly.

But digging started again this afternoon as the Orkney weather, with its usual perverse malevolence, decided to be nice for a while.

Structure interiors are still protected and tomorrow, we are told, will be better (whatever that means).

See you then.

From the Trenches

Slightly different attire from yesterday as the team prepare to battle the less than clement weather.

Slightly different attire from yesterday as the team prepare to battle the less than clement weather.

My name is Mary and I am a senior archaeology student at Willamette University in Oregon, USA.

I have the pleasure of returning to the Ness this year, after participating in the Willamette University field school here last year.

As a returning student I am conducting research on differences between Early and Late Neolithic pottery on site, to create a presentation as my senior field experience.

Through this work I hope to better understand the transition between plain, well-made Early Neolithic pottery and decorated, poorly made Late Neolithic pottery.

The happy Finds team (apart from finds supremo Anne) in their nice, warm, dry finds hut.

The happy Finds team (apart from finds supremo Anne) in their nice, warm, dry finds hut.

I am very fortunate to have experts available, on site, who are allowing me to pester them for information and guidance in my work.

Although I haven’t actually set foot in the trench today, our fearless director, Nick, decided I should be the blogger for today. Luckily for me, my research today centres around reading inside the house as I watch my friends get rained on in the trenches.

My fellow field-schoolers in Trench T were lucky enough to be rained out of their trench for a short time due to mud and got to showcase their immense strength by performing other manual labour around site.

In the slightly more protected Trench P, work continued as usual with diggers under a plethora of waterproofs and jumpers.

Here’s hoping for better weather tomorrow and on Sunday for our open day.

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