Dig Diary – A flint knife, pillowstone fragment and successful operation to recover timber
Monday, August 14, 2023
Where does the time go!
Here we are in the final week of the 2023 season.
Excavation will continue in some trenches tomorrow and perhaps Wednesday, before the work to start covering the site begins in earnest.
Most of the activity today saw final plans drawn and the reams of paperwork that accompany an archaeological dig completed, checked and rechecked.
But although it was mostly planning frames and folders visible in the structures today, there were still some trowels in action.
First and foremost we’re delighted to report that the wooden plank in Structure Twenty-Seven was recovered safely this afternoon.
It was found to be in remarkably good condition and according to a delighted finds supervisor Anne, has much more substance to it that we could ever have wished for.
It will now be thoroughly examined by a specialist and, we hope, provide us with lots of information.
Structure Twelve produced yet another substantial chunk of pumice and a worked stone – probably an ard point? – while in its next-door neighbour, Structure Thirty, Lewis kept the finds hut team busy with trays of pottery.
But it wasn’t just pottery.
After recovering lots of flint on Friday, Thirty took the star find title today – with a fragment of what appears to be rhodochrosite pillowstone, similar to two found in Structure Eight in 2011 and 2014.
They are called pillowstones because of their shape.
But what were they for? We’re not sure – but there’s a splendid summary here.
Rhodochrosite is a non-crystalline rock – probably from Hoy – that is a rich, dark-red colour.
A macehead fragment found outside Structure Twenty-Seven in 2018 was fashioned from the same rock.
But as you’ll see from the picture of the two Structure Eight examples, rhodochrosite is susceptible to degrading in the acid soil conditions at the Ness.
Lewis’ fragment, however, was in remarkably good condition.
Trench J supervisor Paul Durdin has confirmed he is working on a 3d model as I write, and this will be posted later.
Paul has also been busy across the site, with 3d models of each of the trenches and more detailed models of some of the buildings. We’ll post these in due course.
Meanwhile, to the south of Structure Eight, in the vicinity of Structure Thirty-Four, Ceiridwen spotted an absolutely stunning flint knife.
It is a beautifully fashioned (and sharp) blade, with delicate working visible along its edges.
Back in Structure Twelve, Jim, Nick and Paul were spotted at various times today deep in discussion about the relationship between the stone walls that have appeared from under its floor and the rest of the building.
So far the jury’s still out.
What we are completely sure about is that the biography of Structure Twelve has become even more complex than we first thought.
With the last full day of excavation tomorrow, will the Ness pull off its usual party trick and yield some incredible discovery in the last few days of the dig?
You’ll have to check back tomorrow and see.
The site was packed with visitors today, with what must have been well over 100 on this morning’s 11am tour. There’s only a few days left if you want to tour the site, with the last one on Wednesday afternoon at 3pm.
The site closes to the public again on Thursday, and remains so until the 2024 season – assuming we can secure the necessary funds for it to go ahead.
A reminder too, that anyone out there with some spare time on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and who’d like to help us cover the site is more than welcome to join us.
Just turn up on site any time after 9am – but bring waterproofs and sturdy footwear. It’s a tough job but has to be done. So any help will be more than appreciated. And it lets you see that archaeology up close.
On that note, we’ll end for today.
See you tomorrow.