A spectacular incised slab – the first of many in 2019

Diary – Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Day Eight

2014: The team assembles by Structure One for a site resumé by Nick.

As mentioned yesterday, we’re now reaching the point where the pre-2015, six-week excavations on site start getting under way.

In 2014, it was day two and work to uncover and clean the site was still ongoing. It was, however, noted that the removal of the dread sandbags had taken place with remarkable speed – no doubt aided by the presence of a (borrowed) motorised wheelbarrow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015, was one of those rare days perfect for archaeology – sunshine, slight breeze to keep the midges at bay and not a drop of rain.

2015: Anne and Roy delicately recover the decorated pot.

The magnificent piece of decorated pottery, mentioned yesterday, was lifted by Roy, with Anne, from the finds hut, in attendance and an audience of diggers and tourists.

2015: The double miniature pot in its protective nest of acid-free paper.

Sticking with ceramics, over in the central midden area, another “double pot” emerged – the second found on site at that date. Technically it is a small pad of fired clay with two finger impressions side by side. What was it used for? The simple answer is we’re not sure, but we’ve since found quite a few variations of these tiny pots.

In Structure Fourteen‘s floor, small stake holes and a post hole were uncovered, highlighting, once again, the building’s parallels with House Two at the nearby Barnhouse Settlement.

Trench T was the centre of attention on Friday, July 15, 2016 – specifically Structure Twenty-Seven, which at the time was thought might be the remains of a chambered cairn.

2016: The three layers of flagstone paving covering the drain on the outside of Structure Twenty-Seven in Trench T.

There, three levels of flagstones were found to overlie a drain. This discovery instantly brought Structure Ten to mind, which is surrounded by a flagstone walkway and which has, underneath it, a carefully constructed drain.

The importance of Structure Twenty-Seven in the story of the Ness was becoming increasingly clear.

Over in Trench P, planning and sampling remained the order of the day, centred around with Structures One, Eight and Twelve.

July 15, 2017, fell on a weekend as it did in 2018 – but in the latter year, there was plenty going on as it was the first open day of the season.

Over 700 visitors were welcomed as excavation continued and events laid on across the site and over in the Stenness school.

We end today’s jaunt down memory lane with one of the many exciting discoveries of 2019 – a highly decorated stone from one of the buildings underlying Structure Eight.

2019: The incised stone recovered from the interior of Structure Eight. It was part of an earlier, underlying building, Structure Seventeen. Click the image for a larger version. (Sigurd Towrie)

It was in the final minutes of Monday, July 15, 2019, that the slab emerged from Structure Seventeen. Highly reminiscent of the 1925 Brodgar Stone and an example recovered in August 2015, the latest stone featured four bands of decoration that had, in areas, been worn away during its lifetime. Click here for more details and click here for more images.


2019: Structure 26: hearth, quern and orthostat. (Karen Wallis)

2019: Structure 26: hearth, quern and orthostat. (Karen Wallis)

Elsewhere on site, the last of the midden overlaying the demolition areas of Structure Twenty-Seven was being removed and had revealed more of one of the huge prone orthostats along its north-west inner wall. 


In Trench J, work continued on the the later hearths which rest on the infill of Structures Five and Thirty-Two, while work on Structure Five’s two entrances sought to understand their relationship and the building’s later remodelling.

On Monday we mentioned the possibility of raised recesses in Structure Eight. In 2019, it was suggested the large south-west recess of Structure Twelve had raised, possibly wooden, platforms. Why? Because so many stones from the underlying Structure Twenty-Eight were poking through that they would have rendered the floor unusable, making a platform above them a necessary addition.

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