Dig Diary – Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Day Eighteen

The ‘Great Wall’ revealed again

The inner face of the 'Great Wall of Brodgar' once again sees the light of day.

The inner face of the ‘Great Wall of Brodgar’ once again sees the light of day.

There used to be an element of fun about weather forecasts, especially in the bad old days when they were inaccurate.

Back then, it was perfectly reasonable to think that they would be wrong and that a forecast of snow should have you reaching for sun block.

Not any more. The forecasts are now horribly accurate and today was a case in point.

The forecasters told us it would be misty in the morning and that rain would arrive after midday. And it did.

By 2pm, it was heavy and, ever alert to the welfare of diggers, site director Nick sent them home.

Site supervisors had to stay, of course. The burden of paperwork is heavy on those poor souls. Indeed there should be a Nobel Prize for anyone who can make that burden lighter.

Before the heavens broke wide open, however, over in Trench X, Sarah and Blaine recovered some nice pieces of flint and chert.

Sarah and Blaine seem happy with their flint finds in Trench X.

Over in Trench J, Hugo and his team continued work on the building within, which everyone has just remembered is called Structure Five.

Note that number, because it is certain to appear frequently in future diaries.

Site director Nick hopes to fully define the structure’s dimensions by the end of this season, and already it is possible to see the orthostats making internal radial divisions, the relatively thin walls and, perhaps most striking, the apparent oval plan with an intricate side entrance.

Every bit as impressive is the portion of the “Great Wall of Brodgar” (forming the north-western side of the massive walled enclosure that encloses all the main buildings) which is appearing as it curves around the trench.

Some of the younger archaeologists have seen drawings, illustrations and photographs of this remarkable feature, but to see its massive stones first-hand has clearly shocked them.

One of the early tasks in Trench J will be to remove the traces of the later ephemeral activity, which is obscuring some of the details of the structure.

Trench J in 2008. The ‘Great Wall’ is shown in red, with Structure Five in yellow.

This, however, should be accomplished quite quickly.

It is very likely that this building is earlier than many of the structures visible at the moment in the main trench, but a common question is whether Structure Five, early as it may be, has even earlier buildings underneath it.

Nick is quite firm on this point.

The first act of Neolithic building here was to strip the turf and then to set Structure Five down on the glacial till. There appears to be no archaeology underneath.

However, like many other structures at the Ness it seems to have gone through several phases of remodelling and re-use that will need unpicking.

The rain is now heavier than ever, but we are comforted by the weather forecast for tomorrow, which promises a much better day, perhaps even including a blink or two of sun.

We look forward to it, and will see you then.

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