Dig Diary – More decorated stone, pottery and unravelling the story of the ‘rockery with a roof’
Tuesday, August 1, 2023
Here we are at the end of yet another wonderful day at the Ness.
A day of perfect weather, revelations and incredible finds.
All of yesterday’s new arrivals have slotted into place and are getting into the swing of things and the how the excavation operates.
We’ll begin today with the stunning pot found by Denise last Thursday outside Structure One (and illustrated by Paul’s 3d model last night). We’re delighted to say it was lifted successfully by Anne and Denise today and quickly ushered to the finds hut where it will be left to dry, before cleaning and conservation.
Although slightly squashed, and cracked, it is a very fine example of Grooved Ware pottery – albeit rather squat.
As you will have seen from the photographs and model it’s heavily decorated and excavation confirmed that it contained a white material inside. We don’t know what this material is. Yet.
Inside Structure One, the fantastic finds kept coming, when Emma, working on the northern floor sondage, found a tiny, but beautifully incised stone fragment. Congratulations to her for spotting it!
The decoration consists of an empty band and a second of incised crosshatching.
These are accompanied by what appears to be a series of finer incised lines that are later than the decorative bands.
Sticking with ceramics, Trench J supervisor Paul was excavating the robber cut of Structure Five’s north-eastern wall when he found more pottery sherds. Unfortunately, the fragments are too small to be diagnostic so we don’t know if they represent Early Neolithic pottery (either carinated or Unstan Ware).
However, they were examined by our pottery specialist Jan Blatchford, who confirmed there is well-fired slip on their exterior and sooty deposits on the inside.
Although she will have to examine them closer, the voids visible within the clay suggests the use of the organic temper, typical of Early Neolithic ceramics.
In the trench extension, Lewis has reached the natural (original ground surface) outside the northern boundary wall’s outer face.
Meanwhile, in the interior of Structure Five’s original, southern section what appears to be the natural is showing up.
This means the floor deposits are quite thin, or non-existent, in some places.
While this could be suggestive of floor cleaning, or even a short-period of use, in this case it is more likely that the natural surface was undulating and levelled with flooring material.
This would result in areas of shallow floor material as well as deeper deposits, depending on the height of the underlying surface.
But Structure Five’s floor surfaces are behaving themselves, compared to those in the north of Seventeen, which are (as we really should have expected by now) just a complicated morass of material!
Work in Structure Ten continued to concentrate on the two earlier buildings. More walling from Structure Thirty-Nine, under the south-western buttress, has been revealed, while in the north-eastern corner the complexities of the wall section of Structure Twenty are still coming to light.
It’s a painstaking, slow task, due to the poor condition of the remains, but Jackson, Elena and Michele are doing a great job and we are hoping they’ll be finished by the end of the week.
Unlike the deposit around Structure Ten, which was made up primarily of (very large) cattle, the Trench T remains are mostly made up of lambs.
Inside Twenty-Seven, Phoenix lifted what initially appeared to be a roof tile and revealed a patch of pebbles and a single hammerstone underneath.
His discovery is very similar to one in Structure One, which seemed to be related to the building’s drains. So it may be that the “roof tile” was actually a drain cover. Its position does seem to line up with the curving drain under the south-western end of Structure Twenty-Seven.
Elsewhere in the building, the Willamette students were introduced to the joys of planning, using planning frames and drawing boards in the traditional method.
In the north-eastern end of Structure Twenty-Seven, Chris Gee’s two sondages are coming down on to what appears to similar deposits to those overlying, and sealing, the building’s floor to the south.
There also appears to be more features emerging through the demolition debris in the building. All in all, it’s been a busy day!
It will perhaps come as no surprise that Structure Twelve has been left until last in today’s activity round-up.
Primarily because your diary writer has to sit and ponder how he can unravel, and document, the latest developments in a building described by supervisor Jim as “a rockery with a roof”!
Twelve (and its underlying buildings) continues to cause headaches. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, it kicks you in the head.
That said, Jim was delighted to state this afternoon that the story is starting to come together. Hopefully, it won’t unravel itself again tomorrow!
So, let’s start with the easy one.
At the end of the day, Michaela, working south of the building’s west, central pier, revealed what appears to be a truncated pier belonging to Structure Twenty-Eight – one of Twelve’s predecessors.
The end of the pier had been robbed out to allow the construction of Twelve on top.
We’re also delighted to report (although that’ll inevitably come back to bite us somewhere tender) that other elements of Michaela’s sondage are beginning make more sense – particularly now that Twenty-Eight’s pier has been exposed.
Meanwhile, in the north-western corner recess, Nina started carefully removing some of the stone slabs and collapse. And it looks as though we might have some more of the Structure Twenty-Eight wall appearing underneath.
In Twelve’s north-eastern corner, Gianluca has completely removed the later, scrappy wall and is now coming down on to an apparent curving wall that is visible due to the differential drying of the surfaces.
What it represents, however, remains open to question. Is it connected to the walling revealed in the northern end last week? Time will tell.
It seems that when Twelve was constructed, a series of smaller, earlier buildings around it were taken out of use – if they hadn’t been abandoned already.
Other ephemeral walling disappearing into Trench P’s edges may represent more of these earlier structures. We’ll keep you posted on developments.
Also welcomed back on site this week was Julia Becher, a PhD candidate, who is working on pottery residues and lipids at the Ness.
Nick, Mark and Julia had a catch-up meeting today, where she revealed more about her finds.
We can’t say much at present, but Julia’s results are very exciting, so watch this space.
We’ll be back tomorrow, so check back then for more.