A puzzling piece of pottery!
Dig Diary – Day Twenty-Eight
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Today has been busy, with sultry weather and, as close of play draws near, some dramatic thunder and lightning
However, work goes on and in the finds hut Anne is preparing to pack the very large pot which was found outside the blocked north-western entrance of Structure Twelve.
This is not a simple task.
The vessel was discovered by Chris with the exterior surface facing downwards. We expected it to be decorated, and one small piece confirmed that impression, but most of it remained face down as it dried slowly in the finds hut.
As we had expected, the midden which had been lifted with it separated from the pot but that meant that large sections were less supported.
This made all the more important the photographs and drawings which we made of the pot with each piece numbered, thus enabling us to know how each sherd fitted with its neighbours.
Somehow, Anne has to lift the sherds from the drying midden and transfer them, piece by piece, to safe packing, part of which consists of carefully adapted kneeling pads.
It is, as we had thought, a rather unusual vessel. For its size the walls of the vessel appear remarkably thin. The decoration on the exterior surface is complex and delicate (pictured above) and not quite what was expected.
The exterior surface is still substantially covered with midden and the decorative details are also obscured by what appears to be a layer of soot, suggesting that the vessel has been used on a fire.
What we think we can see on the main section is two parallel, shallow ellipses formed by two curving applied cordons with a third applied cordon running through the middle.
At this point, those who want to continue reading may want to have a glass of water and an aspirin standing ready…..this is complicated stuff!
The applied cordons have all been treated differently. Diagonal slashing, serpentine decoration, vertical slashing and plain cordons are all visible, but it is the presence of the third applied cordon running through the middle of the ellipses which is puzzling us.
Throughout the history of Grooved Ware studies variations on ellipses or more angular lozenges, sometimes incised and sometimes formed by applied cordons have been noted.
But we are scratching our heads about the third cordon in the middle.
We should have a better understanding tomorrow when Cecily, our environmental flotation and reconstruction-drawing expert, will arrive to take a closer look.
Hopefully, she will produce drawings which will give us a good idea about how the pot and its decoration would have looked. We will let you see them on the diary.
Over in Trench J, the ashy midden dumps within the later Structure Thirty-Two continue to be removed with yet more pot being found.
Meanwhile Colin has been busy removing the last of the blocking in the south-east entrance of Structure Five and has fully revealed the external walls forming a kind of horn-work/porch arrangement perhaps leading into another building. Paving of this entrance has also been brought to light for the first time in 5,000 years.
Micromorphologist Dr Jo today began the task of recovering the second piece of wood from the two postholes in Structure Twelve.
This second one is proving more difficult than yesterday’s first example.
It is much larger and is sitting against stone, which is either the remains of the robbed-out orthostat or is the packing stone for either orthostat or wood.
It also appears to have been chamfered or pointed, but we are hopeful of obtaining more evidence as we have seen the remarkable abilities of our environmental archaeologists in dealing with the most unpromising of materials.
Radio Orkney had also heard about the prehistoric timber and arrived to interview Jo live on site.
Meanwhile, outside the south-western corner of Structure Twelve Peter and Melvyn have uncovered stonework which might relate to paving around the building, although some of it might pre-date the construction of Structure Twelve. We will tell you what emerges in the following days.
Today, in Structure Ten, he excelled himself, finding his second flint scraper of the week, a handsome affair with a beautiful convex retouched edge very similar to the first one he found.
We are still willing to hire Travis out to other sites who can’t find artefacts but…the price has just gone up!
See you tomorrow.