Dig Diary – Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day Thirteen

The NE corner buttress of St 14 is revealed.

The north-east corner buttress of Structure Fourteen is revealed.

We have had an interesting day on the Ness, if blowy, wet and intermittently miserable.

Hugo, in Structure Fourteen and ancillary areas, was happy.

But Hugo is always happy when he can use a mattock (definition: large, heavy sharp instrument with long handle).

In case anyone gets the wrong idea, a mattock can be used with great delicacy and the absolute minimum of swinging. It is, of course, useful for removing large areas of material quickly, and in the extension to Structure Fourteen midden has, indeed, come off with remarkable speed on the north-west side of the trench.

On the north-east side, further work has been done on the recently revealed walling and paving.  However, the new pier, which was revealed at the end of last week, has now been shown to be a corner buttress, as is found in nearby Structure One. Most intriguingly, Structure Fourteen can now be seen as having a mixture of elements from Structures Eight, Twelve and One.

Covers stay in place in St 1 to protect vulnerable floor deposits.

Covers stay in place in Structure One to protect vulnerable floor deposits.

The bad weather has meant that much of the precious floor areas of Structure One have remained covered by plastic.

In the east entrance, excavation has continued on the square, stone setting found there.

It is not a hearth (like the one in the entrance to Structure Eight at the nearby Barnhouse Settlement), as had been expected, but is instead a simple stone box filled with a very homogenous material, which is more like earth than midden.

Suggestions that it is a foot bath at the door for grubby Neolithic feet are generally derided!

The stratigraphy of midden dumps in the central midden area, up against walls, has led to suggestions that Structure Twelve may be later than Structure Eight, despite the earlier feeling that they were contemporary.

Mai half sections the stone setting in the side entrance to St 1.

Mai half sections the stone setting in the side entrance to Structure One.

Certainly, the north wall of Structure Twelve, which adjoins the central midden (via the “porch”) has certainly been remodeled on several occasions.

This issue will become clearer soon, but in the meantime Structure Twelve has come up with another mystery.

As we mentioned yesterday, the baulk of midden, which was left, partly to define the robber trench, is being removed.

It has now been revealed to contain what appears to be a stone cist within the midden infill, and certainly late in the sequence for the structure. More of this to come in following days.

The external sondage to the west end of Structure Ten is being extended by Andy to try to find out the relationship between the deposition of the midden and the end of life of the structure.

The two halves of the polished stone chisel with one half still wet from a gentle clean.

The two halves of the polished stone chisel with one half still wet from a gentle clean.

The interior of Structure Ten, however, remains horrendously difficult to understand.

The removal of some elements, as mentioned yesterday, has allowed a sight of the very thick sealing of clay, which may seal the primary floor of the structure, perhaps (and hopefully) as a leveling layer.

However, there remains the possibility that the primary floor may no longer exist and that what we are seeing is an early glimpse of material covering the earlier structure which lies under Structure Ten.

This is improbable, but it is all very difficult to disentangle. However, further excavation should begin to make sense of it soon.

Tomorrow, more rain is forecast. We shall see, and no doubt suffer.

Two exquisite finds have come light today, just to the west of Structure One – two halves of a polished stone “chisel” that match exactly, and also a miniature flint axe.  Although several other polished stone axes have been recovered, this is the first flint one.

Although not polished, but merely flaked, this is a beautiful object yet only circa three centimetres.

Also the incised stone slab that turned up in the east wall of Structure One last week has revealed the beauty of its very slight incised decoration.

Close-up photography, by finds assistant Scott Forsyth in the early morning light, suddenly highlighted parallel bands of different designs – chevrons, cross-hatching, and crosses.

Photos like this really do dispel the idea that these are not careful designs and just random incisions.

Close-up of some of the incised decoration - each band is circa 1cm wide.

Close-up of some of the incised decoration – each band is circa 1cm wide.

From the Trenches

A plethora of section lines in the new extension clarify the infill and later robbing events relating to Structure Fourteen.

A plethora of section lines in the new extension clarify the infill and later robbing events relating to Structure Fourteen.

Hello! I’m Siân Killick and I’m one of the new recruits who started on site this week, so I’m already on day three of my two-week stint here on the Ness.

Although archaeology has been the focus of my studies for the past seven years, this is only my second real experience of “life at the trowel’s edge” and it’s very different from digging in rural Hampshire!

This trip is also my first lone excursion and I’ve had to brave two planes and a taxi ride to get here from Kent – all I can say is that the journey is definitely being proved worthwhile!

I’ve mainly been working in Structure Fourteen, alongside Ken (who’s come all the way back from America to dig for a second time), where we have been trowelling through the stratigraphic layers to reveal the walls and areas of fill within the structure. Just this afternoon, I have begun to define an internal corner of the section I’m working on – having spent all morning lifting a particularly delicate collection of pottery.

After yesterday’s glorious sunshine, the weather today has taken a swift turn for the worst and we’ve all been battered by the wind and rain!

Despite the weather, spirits are still high in the trenches as we all plough on. Unfortunately, the usually constant stream of visitors has slowed slightly in the rain but the odd one or two who’ve decided to brave the weather have been impressed by the site and what it has to offer. The on-site dig shop is particularly good and I must admit I’ve already bought a stash of fridge magnets and postcards to take home with me!

Other than hoping the weather improves slightly, I’m having a great time so far and I look forward to finding out what the rest of my time here on the Ness of Brodgar has to offer!

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