Dig Diary – Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Day Thirty-Three

Ross with his first pot find of the day.
Ross with his first pot find of the day…

The luck of the Irish!

Ross with his second thumb pot of the day!
…and again with his second thumb pot – both came from the area between Structures One and Twenty-One.

Well, it had to happen.

After the best summer excavation weather that any of us can remember (in this country at least) the rain came down, heavily.

It began just after lunch-time and, with water quickly pooling in some parts of the site, Nick decided enough was enough.

The diggers went home, the supervisors caught up with their paperwork and the Neolithic structures of the Ness looked sadly bereft.

It has, however, been a sensational day in some respects.

The luck of the Irish descended between Structures One and Twenty-One, where Ross found a dinky little thumb pot with some incisions, probably random, on its external surface.

Ross's first pot of the day.
Ross’s first mini pot of the day.

It joins a number of these interesting little pots that have been found at the Ness, although we are still unsure of their use.

That wasn’t the end, however.

A few hours later Ross struck again. Still in the same area he uncovered an amazing little pot.

At first glance it looked like another thumb pot, because it was only a little taller.

Closer examination showed it to be more of an imitation pot, one which is consciously and successfully mimicking a large vessel, although this time complete with incised decoration on the exterior surface.

The first mini pot in situ between Structures One and Twenty-One.
The first mini pot in situ between Structures One and Twenty-One.

The material which fills it will have to be examined carefully and possibly analysed, but the expectation is that the base of the imitation pot will be flat on the interior, just like a full-size pot and in contrast with the often rounded base interior of thumb pots.

Stone tools vs pottery

You may remember the discussion a few days ago about the relative merits of stone tools versus pottery in relation to the amount of information we can glean from them.

A close-up of the decoration on the side of the second mini pot of the day.
A close-up of the decoration on the side of the second mini pot of the day.

Ann Clarke, the distinguished stone tool expert, and your diarist fought a no-score draw, but a late entrant to the fray may well tip the balance in the direction of stone tools (although we still dispute it).

Professor Mark Edmonds is the expert in stone tools and has, together with colleagues, constructed an amazing website called Orkney Stone Tools, which is well worth a visit.

It has lots of information on stone tools, images, 3D models and pages of historical information to put it all in context.

All very well, of course, but just wait until we get Orkney Amazing Pot up and running!

Volunteers needed for cover-up

The tyres relocated to the trench sides last year, ready for the cover-up operation.

Time is running out for this season of excavation at the Ness.

By next Wednesday the digging will be done and work will start in earnest with the important task of covering the entire site with huge sheets of black plastic and pinning it all down with hundreds of tyres.

This is rewarding work, for it ensures the safe survival of the site though the often stormy Orkney winter.

But we need help.

We are appealing for any willing volunteers in Orkney to come along on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week to help with the covering.

Those who do will get a copy of our latest guidebook and our sincere thanks.

We do, however, suggest old clothes and strong footwear.

International recognition

Site director Nick during filming by Japanese TV station NHK.
Site director Nick during filming by Japanese TV channel NHK.

We were visited today by a team from the Japanese channel NHK.

They are making a programme on the Neolithic period across Britain and seemed engrossed by what they saw at the Ness.

When they show it, their programme will add to the growing international recognition of our site and also give valuable exposure to Orkney in one of the world’s most vigorous tourism markets.

We’ll be back on site tomorrow, but there will be no dig diary in the evening – it is the end-of-dig party where weary and bone-sore diggers get the chance to let their hair down after a hard season in the trenches.

Because of our Open Day on Sunday, there will be no diggers on site on Friday, but rest assured, however, that Thursday’s blog will appear online as soon as a few headaches have dissipated slightly.


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