Dig Diary – Another ‘Brodgar Butterfly’ emerges from rubble pit
Tuesday, August 8, 2023
As we suspected it might, more incised, decorated stone has been popping up today, after the Structure Eight team relocated to the site of the former central midden area.
Alice, Ceiridwen, Tom and Ray moved to an area that is probably a massive pit that has been infilled with rubble. It sits between Structures Eight and Twelve and is cut into the remains of Structure Twenty-Three.
By 10.30am this morning, they had recovered ten examples – featuring the usual incised lines, geometric patterns and the “Brodgar Butterfly” motif.
And on the subject of art, our catalogue of decorated stone will soon hopefully be expanded thanks to a site visit by Pat and James from Heritage 360.
They’re visiting the Ness to discuss new aspects and plans for our website, but took some time to show us what their handheld structured light scanner can do. Needless to say, site director Nick wants one!
They have been scanning areas of Structure Twelve’s wall where we know there is decorated and incised stone. Some of these are very difficult to see in all but the most specific lighting situations and we suspect there are other examples that are almost invisible to the naked eye.
We’ll see the results of their scans tomorrow and are particularly interested in seeing if anything new pops up.
Tomorrow, the cleaning work will be extended across the entire site to get everything ready for Scott’s drone.
There was great excitement around Structure One today when what initially appeared to be a human bone was recovered in an area outside the southern entrance.
The excitement was short-lived, however. Now the bone has been cleaned and examined a human origin is not looking likely.
Inside One, however, there were more stunning finds. Jill recovered a beautiful flint scraper from the clay floor in the southern end, while Emma and Tristan, working in the northern half, found a beautiful fragment of decorated Grooved Ware pottery.
Next door, in Structure Twelve, the sondage to clarify the relationship between the building and its predecessors, Twenty-Eight and Twenty-Four, has become even more confusing. Although we now have large construction stones, there’s no wall faces!
We had thought that what had been exposed by the western central pier was a drain, but we’re now having second thoughts.
Instead it does seem that Structure Twelve is sitting on top of at least two earlier buildings. And there may be more.
In the south-western corner of Structure Ten, Lisa and Mark have continued to reveal more flagstone which is now looking more likely to relate to an earlier building – but one that is not as early as Structure Twenty.
What this shows, yet again, is that construction work within the Ness complex was constant and continuous, with some buildings not lasting even a generation before another is built on top.
The SmartFauna experiment to remove the animal bone from outside Structure Twenty-Seven’s north-western wall is now complete. Work in the area is now concentrating on revealing more of the building’s massive stepped foundation/paving.
We mentioned the size of some of these paving slabs yesterday, but now they are even larger! Michele and Elena are now working backwards from the wall face to clarify the extent of the paved area and how far back from the building it goes.
Work by Phoenix and Ruby in the south-western corner has also confirmed that the paving extends into that area and continues along the south-western wall.
As we’ve reported previously, inside the building we’ve now had a few fragments of wood. But nothing like the much larger piece revealed today.
Measuring c40cm by 10cm at present, its condition is not great – little more than a mineralised impression of the timber in the surrounding clay.
We hope we’ll get sections through the timber deposit and portions removed to allow species identification. It will be a long, drawn-out process to recover as much as we can and get as much information as possible.
We mentioned Structure Twenty-Seven’s hearth yesterday – well, today it’s getting bigger! Work continues in the area.
In the building’s south-western corner Chris Gee is removing material from the robber cut around the inner wall face. Olivia is dealing with a similar cut in the north-western corner.
She has not only revealed the cut for one of the large prone orthostats that once ran alongside the north-western inner wall, but the packing stones that held it in place.
A reminder that tomorrow is the last chance to view Jeanne Rose’s exhibition of Ness art at the Northlight Gallery in Stromness. Nick viewed it last night and it is definitely well worth a visit.