Dig Diary – crowds flock to the Ness on our first day open to the public

Half of the first tour group of 2024 make their way to Trench T.  (📷 Jo Bourne)
Half of the first tour group of 2024 make their way to Trench T with Sigurd. (📷 Jo Bourne)

Day Three
Wednesday, June 26, 2024

The site gate opened to the public this morning…

And within minutes the visitors began streaming in. Over 300 people turned up for the first public tour of the season, requiring some eleventh-hour rethinking on how to handle the sheer numbers.

We split the massive group into two with Sigurd heading one way and Kath the other – the two considerable masses of people only running into each other once. Not bad really.

The other half outside Trench P with Kath.  (📷 Jo Bourne)
The other half outside Trench P with Kath. (📷 Jo Bourne)

By lunchtime we had over 500 people through the gate and the visitor numbers continued to swell in the afternoon, with public and private tours running concurrently.

Among the visitors today were schoolchildren from Glaitness Primary School, in Kirkwall, and a group of young people from the Connect project. They were shown around the site by the Historic Environment Scotland rangers before Chris Gee treated them to some practical sessions, including decorating stone.

Glaitness P6 pupils on site today.  (📷 Jo Bourne)
Glaitness P6 pupils on site today. (📷 Jo Bourne)

This saw the youngsters incising designs into stone slabs as well as producing and colouring their creations with pigment “paint”. Elsewhere our ceramics specialist Jan Blatchford was showcasing Neolithic pottery, with examples of actual prehistoric pottery as well as the replica pots she has created herself.

Meanwhile, in the trenches cleaning began in earnest with the greenery carefully removed from the sections, which were then given a good freshen up and the accumulated detritus of the winter removed from in and around the structures.

This produced a few nice little finds – artefacts that had fallen from the eroding trench section – including a nice little decorate pot rim from the southern end of Trench T, outside Structure Twenty-Seven, and a quantity of burnt bone.

Structure Thirty-Four.  (📷 Scott Pike)
Structure Thirty-Four. (📷 Scott Pike)

Today saw a potentially rather exciting find in Structure Thirty-Four – a strange little building nestled between Structures Ten and Twelve. We can’t say much about it yet until it’s checked out by our specialists but watch this space!

Outside Trench P, our “new” addition, Trench I was measured out and marked, ready for the backbreaking de-turfing work to begin tomorrow.

We are re-opening a section of Trench I to further investigate a section of what appeared to be stalled building encountered away back in 2005. This was Structure Two, which, based on the visible architecture and stratigraphy is early and pre-dates the later piered buildings in Trench P (e.g. Structures One, Eight, Twelve and Fourteen).

Structure Two emerging in 2005.  (📷 ORCA)
Structure Two emerging in 2005. (📷 ORCA)

The revisited Trench I will be the focus of this year’s UHI Archaeology Institute field school and the goal is to expose more of Structure Two, reach its occupation deposits and hopefully get dates to see whether it is contemporary with Structure Five, the earliest excavated building on site (c. 3300BC).

Fortunately for the de-turfers, Trench I will only measure 3×2 metres, so hopefully shouldn’t prove to be too taxing.

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