Dig Diary – Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The walls in the area south of Structure One (top left). Structure Eleven (top centre), Structure Twelve (bottom right) and central standing stone (bottom centre).

The walls in the area south of Structure One (top left). Structure Eleven (top centre), Structure Twelve (bottom right) and central standing stone (bottom centre).

Day Eighteen

A day of rain . . .

This is day two of the diary pottery special – largely because the Ness is being pounded, at the minute, by heavy rain (as Lorna laments below) and digging has been brought to an abrupt and slippery halt.

This gives us time to assess the stunning pottery finds of the morning.

The miniature pot from the central midden area.

The miniature pot from the central midden area.

The first ceramic to surprise the folk in the finds hut is a beautiful, tiny and regularly formed miniature pot from the central midden area.

The interior is filled with what is probably midden material but, as it dried, it could be moved aside slightly to show that the interior bottom of the pot has a blackish material.

Is this pigment/paint or is it a carbonised residue? We may know more when the pot is finally assessed, but, for the moment, the filling stays put.

Andy brought in a second potential miniature pot from the floor deposits in Structure One.

This one has a curious “pedestal” attached to its bottom on the exterior. When it dries a little this will probably be revealed as just an adhering midden concretion, but to have two miniature pots in one day is something of a triumph.

The third pottery puzzle, and in some ways the one with the most potential to surprise, was found by Ray in the corner of a recess in Structure Eight.

This structure is renowned for the discovery of Neolithic bling, particularly in the recesses. The pot, which has very fine curving striations on the exterior surface, was found in the rubble infill, apparently carefully placed below two incomplete stone pot lids.

When it, too, dries the striations may turn out to be accidental impressions on the thin slurry of midden material, which covered the pot. If they are, indeed, deliberate striations as decoration on the pot we will all have to think very hard about what we have. More on this tomorrow.

Yet another puzzling pot will also have to wait until tomorrow for identification.

It nestles in the midden wall core of Structure Ten and at first (and very uncertain) glance it seems to have a square form. Square pots are not unknown in prehistory but, as this one is still in the ground, we will have to hold fire until some more careful excavation takes place.

Looking down the central axis of Structure Fourteen from Hugo's polecam.

Looking down the central axis of Structure Fourteen from Hugo’s polecam.

Structure Fourteen has been carefully cleaned and Hugo has taken a series of photographs with his pole camera. When completed he will stitch these together to make a 3D interactive image of the structure.

In Structure Ten, Mark, Claire and Jan are still hard at work removing the infill from the robber cut at the east front end.

Claire, Jan and Mark remove the infill of the robber cut north of the entrance to Structure Ten.

Claire, Jan and Mark remove the infill of the robber cut north of the entrance to Structure Ten.

Site director Nick explains that the vertical ghost image of the robber cut shows clearly and that this suggests two things.

  • First, the infill must have taken place pretty quickly after the stones were removed.
  • Second, it seems possible that the wall heads of the structure were still visible when the robber cut was made and the stones removed.

This implies that Structures Ten and Twelve were infilled first and robbed at some later date, which is in stark contrast to Structures Twenty-one and Fourteen, where it seems clear that the walls were robbed before the infilling took place. The complexities of the Ness multiply on a daily basis.

In the area to the south of Structure One, the remaining midden baulks have been removed revealing a series of small, and far-from-coherent, walls.

The area is now, however, basically open and the walls may have formed some sort of structure(s) around the central standing stone, which still suggests itself as the focus and centrepoint of activities on the site.

If it ever stops raining, we will be back tomorrow.

From the Trenches

Lorna Ovington.

Lorna Ovington.

Hello, I’m Lorna, I’m 21 and here on the Ness of Brodgar for my university module.

I study with UHI here in Orkney and am going into my third year in September! How time flies! I have been on two other sites before the Ness, one in Glamis, near my home town of Forfar, on mainland Scotland, and another in Magdeburg in Germany.

This is my first time on the Ness, however. Aside from the seemingly constant and torrential rain –  or even with that –  I am thoroughly enjoying my time here.

I’m into my second week and leave lovely Orkney on Friday. I am getting very attached to the site, however, and I don’t want to leave! But since I am camping, I don’t really feel like spending another week or two all on my lonesome in the wind and rain in a small tent, surprisingly!

I am getting a reprieve from the dreaded, aforementioned torrential rain to write this, so while I’m all warm and cosy, (but still slightly soggy!), I’ll reveal a bit about the work I am involved in on site.

I have worked on removing a large baulk from outwith Structure One. It mostly contained midden deposits so there was plenty of burnt bone fragments and pottery fragments to be found. There were also some beautiful pieces of flint, some large pieces of stunningly designed pottery and some stone flakes from tools.

Laura, the pot magnet, is assisted by Jim in uncovering her latest mega-sherd of decorated pot just outside Structure Twelve.

Laura, the pot magnet, is assisted by Jim in uncovering her latest mega-sherd of decorated pot just outside Structure Twelve.

I was lucky enough to find two amazing halves of stone pot lid, unfortunately not matching the same pot!

They were in two varying sizes, one very large half found right on the top of the deposit, about one trowel scrape down, and another smaller, but no less impressive, sized half found in the middle of the deposit.

Right at the bottom of my deposit were two beautiful worked stone tools. One large piece could be the head of a mace-like tool, while the other, rounder, pebble was possibly used as a polishing, or grinding, stone.

During my time here at the Ness I have also done some work in the finds hut. This involved laying out sherds of pottery and bone to dry out.

It was incredibly interesting seeing all the finds that were being brought in and having the time to sit and look at them without having to just have a quick glance and bag them up so they don’t get damaged. It was also great to look at all the finds without having to sit in the cold and rain with soggy knees digging them out!

So from a dripping wet Ness of Brodgar its goodbye as the rain is calling a halt to proceedings for the day. Hopefully the sun will come back tomorrow!

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