Another hammerstone and a site awash with planning frames

As we began the final week of the 2021 excavation season, planning frames were out in force across the site. (Sigurd Towrie)

As we began the final week of the 2021 excavation season, planning frames were out in force across the site. (Sigurd Towrie)

Dig Diary – Day Thirty-One
Monday, August 9, 2021

Well, readers, this is the beginning of the last week of the excavation campaign for this year.

We have been so happy to be back after the blank of last year, but even though wary glances are being directed at the tyres and black plastic which will cover the site over the winter, there is still excavation to be done, and many plans and photographs to be completed.

This morning Jenna was digging just outside the blocked north-west entrance to Structure Twelve when she spotted something out of the ordinary.

Jenna's hammerstone in situ outside Structure Twelve. (Sigurd Towrie)

Jenna’s hammerstone in situ outside Structure Twelve. (Sigurd Towrie)

It was roundish, reddish and one unkind colleague suggested it was a turnip. Other facetious remarks were made about cannonballs, and how far north did the Napoleonic Wars reach? In fact, it was something much more interesting than either of those.

Further careful excavation showed it to be a large hammerstone with very obvious signs of wear at one end. It was a tricky thing to excavate from the vertical section because it was surrounded by stone and with a very annoying little stone trapping it at the bottom.

Jenna recovering the hammerstone... (Sigurd Towrie)

Jenna recovering the hammerstone… (Sigurd Towrie)

Eventually it was eased from the section base, wrapped in tinfoil and taken to the finds hut where it joined a similar one found, on Friday, at the other side of the structure.

Why tinfoil?

The Ness is part of an important Europe-wide archaeological research project, Chemarch, which will micro-analyse the surface of stone tools with the aim of discovering what they were used for and, in the case of hammerstones, exactly what they impacted or, perhaps, ground.

In order for the chemical analysis to succeed we do not clean mud and detritus from samples which may be of use. That will now be the task of the specialist who will undertake the examination and analysis. The tinfoil is there to prevent any contamination of the object’s surface.

Other areas of study in which we are involved are analyses of Ness pottery to determine what was stored, or perhaps cooked in it. We will let you know how these research studies are progressing as results are recorded in the future.

Structure Thirty-Two this afternoon. (Sigurd Towrie)

Structure Thirty-Two this afternoon. (Sigurd Towrie)

In Structure Thirty-Two, Chris, Ceiridwen and Ray have been removing the final elements of the red, ashy deposits and finding yet more red, ashy and uniquely mushy pottery. We say that as pot fans but this stuff is beyond the pale.

In the eastern entrance to the building Colin is now making the final plans of the entrance area which he excavated so expertly last week.

It’s always nice to see old friends returning for a visit and today we welcomed Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark and his family. Hugo was one of our most senior supervisors in past years, especially concerned with Structure Fourteen and Trench J.

After a brief Orkney holiday Hugo, now with the National Museums of Scotland, will travel to Sanday to continue excavation of the Tresness chambered cairn with Dr Vicky Cummings.

Mark planning in Structure Ten this afternoon. (Sigurd Towrie)

Mark was planning in Structure Ten this afternoon… (Sigurd Towrie) was Travis. (Sigurd Towrie)

…as was Travis. (Sigurd Towrie)

In Structure Ten, Professor Mark Edmonds has returned to help with the final planning of the building which will record the changes noted this year by supervisor Sinead and her team.

In the south-west corner of Ten Jem is finishing work on her two post holes. You may remember last week that she was unsure whether they represented a double post hole, or whether it was a case of one succeeding the other.

The latter is now the case as a larger post can now be clearly seen to have been inserted to replace the earlier and smaller one.

Jem's double post-holes. (Sigurd Towrie)

Jem’s double post-holes in Structure Ten – one early, one later. (Sigurd Towrie)

This is likely to have happened at the time when the south-west corner and roof of the original Structure Ten started to collapse. We can see why they needed a bigger and stronger roof post.

We will be back tomorrow as accelerated efforts are made to finish the million-and-one small tasks remaining before the close.

See you then.

And today's prize for best presentation of an environmental sample record sheet goes to Dr Jo McKenzie...

And today’s prize for best presentation of an environmental sample record sheet goes to Dr Jo McKenzie…

...detailing her samples of the wooden posts found in Structure Twelve.

…detailing her samples of the wooden posts found in Structure Twelve.

Auction update

The highest bid for Chris’ handmade replica carved stone ball remains at £300. Thank you to all the bidders.

To bid for this one-of-a-kind creation, email Please put “CSB auction” in the subject line and include your bid in the body of the email. 

The auction closes on Friday, August 13, the last day of the 2021 excavation season.

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