Dig Diary – Found it! Suspected hearth in Structure Twenty-Seven
Dig Diary – Day Nineteen
Thursday, July 27
One thing you can always be sure of, just when you think you’re all done for the day the Ness kicks off.
There was much commotion – not to mention great excitement – in the final 30 minutes of play today, with multiple finds across the site, including the discovery of a potential hearth in Structure Twenty-Seven.
Although not yet fully revealed, the suspected hearth is in exactly the right location within Twenty-Seven’s interior that we’d expect a Neolithic fireplace to be.
Work on, and around, the feature will continue on Sunday, so check back to get the latest updates.
Or, better still, if you’re heading to Sunday’s open day, head over to Trench T, where Sigurd will be regaling visitors with the story of Structure Twenty-Seven…well, as much of the story as we know.
At the same time the hearth appeared, Denise exposed a lovely piece of decorated Grooved Ware pottery in the section outside Structure One’s southern end.
Your diary writer upped his step-count considerably in those final few minutes, sprinting back and forth across the site!
Its emergence was a welcome sight because we had thought the later hearth, and a scoop cut into the floor, had completely removed it. From the section exposed so far it is very reminiscent of one of Structure Fourteen’s hearths.
At the Ness, when a new building was planned, a layer of midden was spread on top of the earlier structures’ remains to create a level platform on which building commenced.
This is called a levelling layer and we are now in a position to remove the one between Seventeen and Structure Eight.
This will reveal more of the earlier building’s floor, which will be extensively sampled. To develop a strategy for this process, Eight’s supervisor Alice and geoarchaeologist Dr Jo McKenzie were spotted, heads together, around the building today discussing and debating the way forward.
Site director Nick is delighted with progress in Seventeen/Eight, where everything is going to plan.
But, unfortunately, not all areas of the site are so accommodating.
Structure Twelve continues to live up to its difficult reputation. We had hoped that the situation regarding the building’s multiple walls and voids would become clearer today, but instead it has become increasingly complicated.
In the building’s north end, attempts to marry up the multiple wall lines were thwarted this morning by Twelve’s undulating yellow clay floor.
Plan A was therefore shelved and Plan B – investigate the material around a collapsed area in the north-western corner that seems to relate to the “mega drain” (remember that?) – was born.
We’ll keep you posted.
Over in the “Void of Despair” there was much prodding and excavating. Supervisor Jim is pondering whether the walling underneath Twelve represents a building that pre-dates even Structure Twenty-Eight, the construction directly underneath Twelve.
This building, Structure Twenty-Four, has been the subject of debate for many years and had almost slipped into the realm of mythology. But now it’s back with a vengeance!
Outside the south-eastern end of Twelve, Chris Marshall is further investigating a sondage inserted between it and Structure Thirty in 2019.
The goal is to clarify the relationship between the two buildings. We think Thirty is probably contemporary to Structure Twelve – in at least one of its phases – but the possibility remains that it may actually relate to Structures Twenty-Eight or Twenty-Four.
The material at the bottom of Chris’ sondage will – we hope – provide some answers.
We were delighted to see Jo Bourne arrive back on site this morning.
Jo has dug at the Ness for years and was the Structure Eight supervisor in 2022. She wasn’t able to join the dig team this season, but has made her way north for a holiday.
When not in the trenches, Jo and Sigurd have worked together for years capturing photographs of the excavations for the daily diary.
So it was with a great sigh of relief that Sigurd was able to step back and leave Jo in charge of the photography today (her pictures are always better anyway)!
Yesterday, Paul began to suspect the hearth had been extended and today this was confirmed.
Working in a sondage to the south of the hearth, Catriona not only produce the evidence that this was the case but also revealed a pair of stone slabs lying beneath the uppermost floor level.
Claire, working around one of the building’s multiple “dressers” – the one against the original, northern end wall – uncovered what appears to be a very nice stone tool. So nice, in fact, that it may actually be a blank for a macehead.
In Structure One, Andy has been working in the area around the northern hearth. It had been thought this might have been moved but this afternoon it became clear this was not the case.
The building’s southern, and secondary, hearth has now been completely dismantled to reveal its primary phase predecessor.
Outside One, Deely and Lena have been excavating a section over the paved area to the south-east.
As well as recovering a relatively rare unworked flint nodule, what they have revealed suggests the paving is in multiple layers, laid against and going under the central paved area.
Over in Structure Ten, the situation around the south-western buttress is much the same as reported previously. A frustrating morass of floor levels and deposits.
Under the north-eastern buttress, however, the pier associated with Structure Twenty is becoming much clearer. Compared with other piers on site, it is not only stubby but quite wide. It is also well built.
We’ll return to Structure Twenty-Seven for the final section of today’s diary, where more work on the robber cuts along both sides of the building’s walls is progressing well and revealing more of the remaining walls’ construction.
Inside the building, work to clear away the very compacted demolition layers continued, but is proving exceedingly difficult. But we’re getting there.
At the south end of the building we seem to have more evidence of orthostatic “furniture” features.
Outside the north-western wall, Michele has joined Jackson in recovering the animal bone spreads. The preservation of these faunal remains is, however, poor, making their excavation very difficult.
Things are not going as quickly as we’d hoped – which is no reflection on the excavators’ skills – but due solely to the condition of the remains.
Remember, tomorrow the site is closed as we prepare for Sunday’s open day, which runs at the Ness and in the Stenness school from 11am until 4pm.
More details to follow tomorrow.