Dig Diary – Thursday, July 5, 2018

Marcus and Mike at work opening the new Trench Y.
Marcus and Mike at work opening the new Trench Y.

Day Four

Intriguing questions raised by Structure One tiles

Supervisor Andy takes stock of work under way in Structure One.
Supervisor Andy takes stock of work under way in Structure One.

For the last few years, Structure One has always impressed as the maiden aunt of the Ness buildings.

Immaculately turned out, full of nice things and not one for causing a fuss or springing surprises.

That ended today with a most intriguing find under the foundation stones of the curving phase two wall, which bisected the building.

Marc removing the ash fill of the southern hearth of Structure One.
Marc removing the ash fill of the southern hearth of Structure One.

Regular readers will remember that this wall was mostly removed last year in order to uncover the phase one floors and the overall plan of the original building.

At that time it was noticed that some flat stones were fixed under the wall, but the major surprise came this morning when supervisor Andy Boyar and her team uncovered their surface to reveal what appears to be a large numbers of roof tiles.

This raises intriguing questions.

Some of the Structure One team at work this afternoon.
Some of the Structure One team at work this afternoon.

Structure One has always appeared to be a stable building, in marked contrast to other structures on site, notably Structures Ten, Twelve and Eight.

But it may be that it, too, suffered either a collapse, or perhaps was even deliberately demolished when its original use came to a close.

The important point is that, unlike the other structures, whatever may have brought roof tiles into Structure One did not stop continued occupation of the building.

It is possible that they were imported for re-use from other buildings on site and were found to make good foundations for the curving wall, but we suspect that further light will be shone on this puzzling question as more of the roof tiles are revealed.

Elsewhere in Structure One, Marc is carefully removing the ash fill of the southern hearth, which was left when the hearth fill was half-sectioned last year. This confirms that two sides of the original hearth from phase one are still there, although the remaining pair may have been removed by stone robbing.

A puzzle in Trench J

Arran and Marcus trowelling a corner of the Trench J extension this morning.
Arran and Marcus trowelling a corner of the Trench J extension this morning.

Over in Trench J, the team have finished with mattocking and are now clearing back the topsoil.

In the southern corner of the trench, this has uncovered some stones which, if they are structural, would seem to align with the already excavated part of Structure Five.

There is a problem, though.

Trowels out to investigate the stone features emerging in Trench J this afternoon.
Trowels out to investigate the stone features emerging in Trench J this afternoon.

These stones are high up, which means that, either a much taller section of the Structure Five wall survives than was expected or, perhaps more likely, the stones represent further traces of the later, ephemeral use of the area, which was noticed when the trench was first excavated. Time will tell.

New addition

By the shore of the Stenness Loch - Jenny and Declan in Trench Y.
By the shore of the Stenness Loch – Jenny and Declan in Trench Y.

Trench Y, the new trench outside the fence line towards Stenness loch, and designed to find the missing side wall, is proceeding quickly.

It is arduous work for Mike Copper and his team as they are dealing with tough scrub and grass with, yet again, mattocks.

They may also have to cope with a deeper amount of overburden than expected as there is every possibility that agricultural soil creep from the adjoining field may have added to the depth of material over the wall, if it is there. Fingers crossed.

Looking closer at Structure Twenty-Six

A hive of activity in Structure Twenty-Six.
A hive of activity in Structure Twenty-Six.

Claire and her team are clearing around Structure 26 to give it a better definition, and also to work out its stratigraphic relationship to Structures Ten, Twelve and Thirty.

This will be no easy task, but today’s efforts have already uncovered some nice decorated pottery and some faintly incised decorated stone with, almost certainly, more to come.

Trench T’s new supervisor, Cristina, has spent the last few days getting to grips with its huge complexity, but tomorrow we will see the return of former supervisor Dave for a day of discussion before excavation starts in earnest.

Heads down in Structure Twenty-Six.
Heads down in Structure Twenty-Six.

Visitors to the Ness today included an art and archaeology group headed by Anne Bevan, head of the art department at Orkney College UHI, and our own Antonia Thomas. They are studying the interaction between art and archaeology in various areas across Orkney, and producing some very nice illustrations along the way.

We also met the new director of Destination Orkney, Kate Lewington, on a visit to see how the Ness and its thousands of visitors relate to Kate’s work in promoting tourism in Orkney.

Last, but by no means least, we want to thank sincerely the biscuit man, a wonderful baker who brings us delicious biscuits and cookies but who wishes to remain anonymous. His products keep tired diggers going, so many thanks.

Until tomorrow…