Dig Diary – Haematite, pumice and we’re back in the ‘corner of loveliness’
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Long-term diary readers will recall the fabled “corner of loveliness”.
That source of many wondrous things, such as decorated stone, pottery and animal bone.
The name was coined by Structure Twelve supervisor, Jim, after it began producing finds – by the bucketload – on a daily basis.
It first had us scratching our heads in July 2019, when we thought it was a passage aligned to Structure Twelve’s eastern entrance – an entrance that, unusually, remained in use throughout the life of the building and is notable for its flanking standing stones.
Years later, we now think it was a porch-like annexe added to the eastern exterior of Twelve.
Or do we?
The annexe had been under its covers since the end of the 2019 season, but a delighted, dewy-eyed Sigurd – who originally excavated it with Claire Copper – returned to the area to resume work today.
With leaf trowel in hand, and hunkered down against the bracing north-westerly wind, he lovingly cleaned and prepared it for further investigation.
That investigation began late this afternoon, with excavation work on a rubble pile adjacent to the suspected paving between Structures Twenty-Six and Thirty.
The goal is to see whether the annexe had a rear wall or whether it has, as we initially thought, a passageway running up alongside Structure Thirty.
It wasn’t long before the annexe began producing finds, including some well-preserved animal bone and the largest piece of pumice found on site to date.
Whatever the pumice had been used to abrade seems to have left a well-defined groove along one face. Not exactly the type of spectacular find the corner of loveliness is renowned for, but it’s a good start!
But when it comes to spectacular finds, the eastern annexe was well and truly thwarted by Eleanor, who has clearly discovered her own “corner of loveliness”!
Working beside Twelve’s centre pier, on the building’s western side, she not only exposed more of Structure Twenty-Eight’s internal wall face but earned today’s star find award. Twice!
First she revealed a beautiful spatulate tool. These spoon-like, stone artefacts have become synonymous with Structure Eight, but the latest example adds to the handful found in Twelve.
Unfortunately it had been broken, but remains a lovely example of carefully worked stone.
Were that not enough, a short while later Eleanor’s head popped up above the wallhead.
In her hand was one of the largest pieces of haematite we’ve had from the Ness.
The mineral was used to create the red/orange pigments encountered at the Ness. This one had clearly produced its fair share because its faces were highly polished from being rubbed.
Eleanor’s haematite fragment brings the Ness total to 20.
Meanwhile, cleaning the north-western recess, Linda has found what appears to be the cuts for stone slabs that lined the area.
There probably relate to the recess’s use as a “slow cooker” and perhaps saw slabs inserted in front of the interior wall to protect it from the heat of the hot ash.
Structure One was treated to a major clean-up today in advance of a photography session.
Despite the blustery conditions, Professor Scott Pike was able to send his drone skyward to record the postholes running across the interior and the building’s excavated secondary hearth.
In Structure Eight, the hearth overlying Structure Seventeen has been completely removed, exposing the earlier building’s wall. Tom and Ceiridwen have now move to the building’s southernmost hearth where, aided by Kristina, they have started investigating.
The hearth, which partially overlies one of Structure Seventeen’s hearths, will have its contents excavated and fully sampled before being dismantled.
Meanwhile, Alice and Nick discussed further strategies to reveal as much of Structure Seventeen’s floor level as possible. We’re delighted to report that we’re well ahead of schedule on this operation.
Before we bid Structure Eight adieu, Ray completed sampling the deposit inside the building’s northern entrance.
The complexity of the deposits under Structure Ten’s south-western buttress continued to challenge the excavators. It really is a morass of levelling deposits and it may be that Ten’s primary floor was completely stripped away before the construction of the buttress.
Several large, flat slabs have also emerged in the area which may relate to an earlier building. Time will tell.
Around the north-eastern buttress more floor deposits were removed to reveal more of Structure Twenty. As reported in yesterday’s diary one of its internal stone piers has been found and today excavation continued around it.
The stone feature lay beneath the secondary, much later, hearth removed yesterday. More work on the overlying deposits is required before we can categorically say this is dresser seven.
But as soon as we find out, we’ll let you know.
In the northern end of Five, Aaron and Sarah continued excavating the floor deposits, revealing more pottery to add to that recovered yesterday.
Diligently excavating through animal bone deposits, mixed with rubble and robber debris, they have revealed that the courses of smaller slabs at the top of the surviving wall sat on top of much larger stones.
Outside the building’s north-western wall, Nate has been excavating a mixed deposit of animal bone, which although not as extensive as we’d first hoped is still looking interesting.
Elsewhere, the Willamette students are really getting into the swing of things. They have taken to excavating and recording challenging and complex archaeological deposits like the proverbial ducks to water.
In the building’s north-eastern end, Olivia has revealed what appears to be a stone-built feature that looks like a hearth. But it’s not! What is it? We don’t know yet.
We have no doubt there will be other features appearing in the building very, very soon.
And as they do we’ll let you know.