Dig Diary – New arrivals add to an already ‘buzzing’ atmosphere
Monday, July 17, 2023
A new week and another new batch of diggers – including the 2023 batch of students from Willamette University, Oregon, USA.
Among the new arrivals were Ruby and Olivia, who are back for their second season at the Ness. Their return brought the total of former 2022 Willamettes up to six, with Kristina, Emma, Rowan and Becca already on site.
The 2023 group arrived in Orkney at the weekend and were shown around some of the main archaeological sites by Sigurd yesterday.
But today it was down to business, and, after their induction talks, they were set to work in Structure Twenty-Seven.
The influx of diggers saw Trench T spring back to life today, with Chris and Nate also relocating from Trench J to help with the work – watched over by supervisor Rick.
First order of the day was to give the interior and exterior of Twenty-Seven a spruce up after its winter under cover.
The weather wasn’t at its best today, meaning work was interrupted by bouts of squally showers that would send folk rushing to cover delicate floor surfaces.
But despite the conditions progress continued across the site.
In Structure One, the construction cut of the secondary hearth continued to be a major focus, while outside Emma, Lena and Deely cleaned up the area between One and its neighbour Structure Twenty-Nine.
All that is visible of Twenty-Nine is a single curved wall section jutting from the trench section to the south of Structure One.
By close of play today, plans for a section between One and Twenty-Nine had been discussed and Emma will start work on this tomorrow (which we are assured will be better weather-wise).
Although we know both buildings are roughly contemporary, the new section will help clarify the relationship between the two.
Also outside Structure One, this time between it and Structure Nineteen, Sigurd continued work on the drains running between the paved passage.
This will continue over the next few days, specifically looking at the area outside One’s eastern entrance.
Although this has long been thought to have been punched through the wall in the building’s second phase, Trench J supervisor Paul – who has been compiling the phasing data for the entire complex – wonders whether it was an original feature, but one that had to be altered/raised in its later life.
Paul has also put together a 3d model of the exposed section of the drain, which will go online later tonight – once the diary is written, illustrated and online.
In Structure Eight, we had the (now) familiar sight of Kristina with a planning frame in the southern end.
Elsewhere Tom continued excavating the contents of the hearth that appears to lie directly over the remains of Structure Seventeen’s wall. And in the north end, Ray continued sampling the material lying directly inside Eight’s northern entrance.
Outside the building, Rowan’s excavation of Structure Eighteen’s eastern recess continued. Readers will recall that this is where we suspect Eighteen’s entrance lies).
The arrival of Structure Twelve supervisor, Jim Rylatt, on site this afternoon was a welcome sight. Jim will be back tomorrow ready to begin work on Twelve.
Over in Trench J, Aaron and Kate continued investigating the later, floating hearth above Structure Five, while Claire’s attention was firmly focused on another one of Five six exposed “dresser” features.
And what about the “Great Wall”?
The students from the UHI Archaeology Institute have made more progress exposing the outer face of another section of the wall.
It has to be said that the masonry revealed so far is not as impressive as we had suspected it might be. Perhaps the “Great Wall” relied on its size to impress and make a statement, rather than fine masonry.
But all that might change. Watch this space.
All in all, the Ness site was positively buzzing today. In more than one sense…
When we re-opened Trench J at the start of the season it became clear that a colony of bumblebees had set up home in the ground by the south-eastern trench edge.
Stand there a short time and you’ll see a steady stream of busy bees leaving, and returning, to their underground lair.
We’ve been quite fascinated by our yellow-and-black neighbours, who don’t seem at all bothered by the archaeologists tramping around above their den.
So we were delighted to welcome Alixandra Prybyla and Eva Nelson, from the University of Edinburgh, on site today. Alixandra’s PhD is looking at the acoustics of bumblebees – in particular what information can be gleaned from the sound of their buzzing.