Dig Diary – Thursday, July 27, 2017

Day Nineteen

Provocative pits test patience!

An oblique shot of Trench J, from Scott’s drone, today.


Geoff unveils the revetment of the Iron Age ditch at the top of Trench T.

Once hailed the “mystery trench”, Trench T is now being, more appropriately, described as the “insanely annoying trench”.

It is testing supervisor Ben and his team to the limits of their patience.

Prominent among the provocations are the pits — more than 50 of them now — and after huge efforts to dig and understand them, they are no more willing to give up their secrets than they were at the beginning.

Frankly, they are weird.

It is impossible to distinguish between the material filling the pits and the material into which they were dug. The strong sun is not helping because one moment the diggers can see the edge of the pits appear and the next they are blurred or have disappeared.

What was the purpose of the pits? Did they even have a purpose? Perhaps they are some very strange Neolithic job creation scheme.

The rest of Trench T’s Neolithic contexts are misbehaving in the same disgraceful manner.

Dan gives the entrance to Structure Five, in Trench, J a clean up.

There are walls on the edge of some of the pits which, at first examination, appeared rather flimsy.

After further excavation they have become more substantial, although no more capable of analysis.

At the bottom of the trench, Lewke dug a small sondage to try to understand one of these walls.

Instead, she uncovered yet another wall.

Perhaps the happiest digger in Trench T, or the least troubled, is Geoff, who is continuing to excavate the Iron Age ditch at the top.

He is now getting down into what will be rich Neolithic midden deposits and has already uncovered an unusual rim sherd of Grooved Ware pottery.

He is removing it in a block and once it is dried and cleaned a little we will be able to tell you more.

Owen and his family represented the 10,000th visitor to the Ness this season.

At the south end of Structure Twelve, Catriona and Tom are removing the remnants of the post spreads which lay there and are uncovering a flagged area.

No doubt this pavement will curve around the end of the structure, go under the spoil heap and join up with the paving area around the central standing stone.

And no, we will not remove the spoil heap.

In Trench J, Dan and his team are cleaning up the remnants of material which has gathered over the ten years since the trench was last open.

Meanwhile, in the skies over Trench T (when there was nobody else around), Scott flew his drone for some more amazing aerial photographs.

We had a notable visitor today — a four-month-old baby boy, called Owen, who was our 10,000th visitor of the season.

He was visiting with his parents and grandparents and was presented with The Ness of Brodgar: Digging Deeper, our new guidebook, by Nick. He is young enough to enjoy playing in mud, somewhat like our diggers, but we are sure he will enjoy the book in later years.


Paving at the south end of Structure Twelve is revealed by Tom and Catriona.

10,000 visitors! This astonishing number has been achieved in less than four weeks, and if it continues we are set for a 100 per cent increase in our visitor numbers over last year.

Another visitor was our favourite musician, Walker Ryan, who took his guitar from trench to trench to serenade the diggers.

At almost the end of the day, Sarah, who is supervisor of Structure Ten, arrived with news of the baulk over the bone deposit around the structure, which is being excavated by Jasper and Jenny.

They had found animal bone, as was to be expected, but also a tooth from a puppy.

How did we identify such a small and rare object? Jenny’s husband, Chris, who was digging nearby, is a retired vet and spotted it immediately. It seems there is no end to the range of talents present here at the Ness.

Until tomorrow…

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