Dig Diary – Prehistoric timber fragments continue to appear in Structure Twenty-Seven.
Monday, August 7, 2023
Week six dawned bright and sunny.
What an absolutely gorgeous day to welcome a few new diggers on site!
And it remained so the entire day – aside from a brief, not-very-impressive attempt at a rain shower in the late afternoon. But as you’ll see, the dry conditions are causing something of a headache. I know, we’re never happy!
The big news of the day is the discovery of more timber in Structure Twenty-Seven!
An amazing amount of it!
Its condition, however, is not great – usually just a thin layer of wood attached to another surface.
The removal of Twenty-Seven’s demolition infill is causing consternation because conditions have been so dry that it’s like concrete. Because of the fragility of the organic material we now know lies within we can’t resort to the good ol’ mattocks but have to carefully trowel.
And when another deposit of wood – or organic material – is encountered it is being macro-photographed (i.e. getting right up close) in situ and recovered very, very carefully.
We need to recover as much of the wood deposits as possible in the hope that it can be identified to species. That will tell us the timber available to the builders of Structure Twenty-Seven. Was it locally available wood? Or driftwood from further afield.
We mentioned it previously, but the suspicion is that the Structure Twenty-Seven timber deposits relate to the wooden frame that supported the building’s stone-tiled roof.
Meanwhile, excavation of the animal bone deposit outside the north-western wall is now coming to an end but has revealed more of the paving around the building. As we encountered outside the robbed-out south-eastern wall last year, the stone slabs are huge – over three metres long in some cases.
We can also, now, safely say that Structure Twenty-Seven had a hearth.
Two sides have been exposed and the other two are clearly visible due to the dry conditions of the material overlying them.
The 1.5-square-metre hearth is, however, not centrally placed in the interior and, at present, seems to be the only one.
Jumping across to Trench P, excavation of the area under Structure Ten’s north-eastern buttress is still heading downwards. The walls of Structure Twenty – Ten’s predecessor – are now 60-70cm high. And there’s still no sign of the bottom.
This suggests Twenty was still standing prior to it being levelled and Ten built on top. It’s therefore not surprising that Structure Ten’s north-eastern wall, even with the massive foundation slabs placed beneath it, began tipping over.
The nature of the slabs under the south-western buttress is still uncertain. Was it paving, levelling or an earlier feature?
In Structures Eight/Seventeen work concentrated on preparing for a planned photographic session later this week. That complete, the team will now relocate to an area south of the building, between Eight and Twelve.
They will now focus on an area to the north-west of the central paved area, which includes Structures Thirty-Three, Thirty-Four and an awful lot of rubble. Their goal? To try and clarify what’s happening there.
There are several buildings and phases of activity in the area, all coming together in a confusing mass of material. The first task will to be clean the area and then remove the fill of what appears to be a massive, rubble-filled robber pit.
Anyone visiting the site today might have been a tad confused – maybe even concerned – by the sight of a pair of masked and surgical glove people weaving in and around the different buildings.
Fear not. Our project to gather environmental DNA resumed today, with Sue and Rosalind carrying out the task in drains, middens and hearths around the site. As we’ve explained before, the goal is to collect samples that can be analysed for DNA.
The results will, hopefully, show us the species of plants and animals once present on site – flora and fauna that are not necessarily represented in other surviving evidence, such animal bone.
The analysis procedure is in its early days, but our samples can be stored until such a time as the technique is refined.
In Structure One, samples were gathered from the hearth and the drains to the building’s east and north-west. Elsewhere, work continued on the floor deposits in the building’s northern and southern halves.
Environmental sampling was also the order of the day in Structure Five, where the DNA duo focused on the building’s huge northern drain. Inside Five, like One, the work continued on the building’s floor deposits.
And we’ll conclude again with Structure Twelve.
Although the situation in the “Void of Despair” is still mystifying, the building has produced an intriguing feature in the north-western recess – the so-called “slow-cooker”.
Inserted into the earlier ash deposits – after the recess’ role as a “slow-cooker” had ended – are what appears to be a straight cut across its threshold. Behind this, and running in an arc from north to south, are a series of stakeholes. See the photo – it’ll make more sense.
What this feature represents – yes, you’ve guessed it – isn’t clear yet, but we think it probably relates to cooking, or the preparation of food.
Work continued in the building’s northern and southern end and in its north-western corner recess, but there’s northing to report from there yet. It’s a slow, careful process.
Outside Structure Twelve, and to its south-east, Ben continued the work started by Chris Marshall, looking at the relationship between it and Structure Thirty.
For a brief spell this afternoon it began to look like Thirty pre-dated Twelve. Further excavation, however, confirmed this was not the case…
We can now categorically state that Structure Thirty is definitely later than Twelve.
The building sits higher than Twelve and supervisor Jim’s suggestion that Thirty’s northern end appears to have been carefully truncated to avoid blocking the view from Structure Twelve’s eastern entrance is looking more likely.
And at that, we’ll call it a day.
Back tomorrow. See you then.