Another polished stone axe from Trench J

Today's polished stone axe from Trench J. (Sigurd Towrie)

Today’s polished stone axe from Trench J. (Sigurd Towrie)

Dig Diary – Day Twelve
Tuesday, July 13, 2021

It been another day of trench extensions across the site – but not particularly large ones.

In Trench J, a small extension in the south-western corner was opened to follow the wall line of Structure Thirty-Two – the later building sitting on top of the south end of Structure Five.

Left: Walling begins to appear in the south-western extension in Trench J. Right: Colin with his later floating wall built atop rubble. (Sigurd Towrie)

Left: Walling begins to appear in the south-western extension in Trench J. Right: Colin with his later floating wall built atop rubble. (Sigurd Towrie)

As suggested by the geophysical survey in week one, there was indeed a wall, moving out of the trench in a westward direction. But, as yet, it’s not making much sense as it doesn’t line up with the existing curved wall section of Thirty-Two.

It may be that the new wall line is unrelated to Thirty-Two, but is another later, ephemeral structure that made use of pre-existing elements of both Thirty-Two and Five. Time will tell.

Another wall has appeared to the north of the trench extension, this time built on top of the rubble that overlies Structure Five. This indicates it belonged to another later building or feature. We’ll keep you updated as more is revealed.

The blocked entrance on the south-eastern side of Structure Five. (Sigurd Towrie)

The blocked entrance on the south-eastern side of Structure Five. (Sigurd Towrie)

On the eastern side of Structure Five, is a blocked-up entrance that may relate to an extension of the building southwards.

Today, Ray has been removing some of the blocking outside this entrance to help clarify the wall lines. This is part of an exercise to bring most of the areas excavated so far in Structure Five into sequence.

Ray and Duncan at work in the rubble-filled mid section of Structure Five. (Sigurd Towrie)

Ray and Duncan at work in the rubble-filled mid section of Structure Five. (Sigurd Towrie)

This is being achieved by inserting a pair of section lines across the interior of the building. This means we don’t have to wait until Structure Thirty-Two is fully excavated before continuing the investigation of Five. As a result, the removal of internal rubble has revealed more items of stone “furniture” which had been peeking through for some time.

No doubt this process will have to be repeated several times before the hearth(s) in the central section of the building is reached.

Today's polished stone axe from Trench J. (Ole Thoenies)

Today’s polished stone axe from Trench J. (Ole Thoenies)

The other side of the 13.5cm-long axe. (Ole Thoenies)

The other side of the 13.5cm-long axe. (Ole Thoenies)

Side by side: the two axes from Trench J this season. (Sigurd Towrie)

Side by side: the two axes from Trench J this season. (Sigurd Towrie)

Yesterday we told you that a beautiful, miniature polished stone axe had been found in the Trench J extension.

Today, another axe was found by Peter Shackleton. Measuring c13.5 centimetres long (5.3 in) this artefact is bigger than yesterday’s, though not as pristine as the cutting edge has been heavily damaged. It was sitting in the upper layers of the new, south-western extension.

Structure Twelve supervisor Jim and Chris inserting a small trench extension to allow the recovery of a large slab of pottery uncovered last week. (Sigurd Towrie)

Structure Twelve supervisor Jim and Chris inserting a small trench extension to allow the recovery of a large slab of pottery uncovered last week. (Sigurd Towrie)

Over in Structure Twelve we had yet another extension – but this one had a singular purpose. To allow Chris to recover the huge slab of pottery disappearing into the western side of Trench P.

The “keyhole” extension is just big enough for Chris to work back and hopefully uncover the extent of the very large pottery sherd, on which both the rim and base may be preserved.  This will give a complete profile of the vessel.

Chris with the large pot outside the blocked-up north-western entrance to Structure Twelve. (Sigurd Towrie)

Chris with the large pot outside the blocked-up north-western entrance to Structure Twelve. (Sigurd Towrie)

Outside the north-western corner recess – the site of the building’s primary (and blocked in the second phase of use) entrance, work around the drain collapse area continued slowly but surely. Outside the entrance was a series of slabs, at least one of which was a repurposed roofing tile.

These covered an orthostatic feature that may relate to the box-like entrance arrangements encountered previously on site – as in the secondary side entrance to Structure One.

What these “boxes” represent is not clear as they have, so far, always been empty. Presumably they are threshold markers of some sort, such at the hearthstone encountered at the outside of Structure Eight at the nearby Barnhouse settlement.

The apparent orthostatic box in the north-western corner of Structure Twelve. Could this be similar to the water-boiling 'tank' excavated directly opposite it, in the north-eastern corner of the building? We'll let you know. (Sigurd Towrie)

The apparent orthostatic box in the north-western corner of Structure Twelve. Could this be similar to the water-boiling ‘tank’ excavated directly opposite it, in the north-eastern corner of the building? We’ll let you know. (Sigurd Towrie)

Staying with box-like features, at the lowest point of the drain collapse is a box that had been carefully covered by a large stone slab. Inside, we found large animal bones, with the promise of more to come.

A visit to Structure Twelve by Professor Mark Edmonds raised the interesting possibility that this box, sunk into the floor, might relate to a similar feature directly opposite in the north-eastern corner of the building’s interior. This had been found to have been caulked with clay and the slab at its base discoloured by repeated episodes of applied heat.

The evidence surrounding the north-eastern box suggest it was a “pseudo” hearth – used to heat water with hot stones from the fire. Is its north-western neighbour something similar? We’ll let you know what we find out.

Callum excavating outside Structure Twelve's northern entrance annex. (Sigurd Towrie)

Callum excavating outside Structure Twelve’s northern entrance annex. (Sigurd Towrie)

Jem, from Structure Ten, recording the GPS position of finds around Structure Twelve's southern hearth. Jem is assisting Trench J supervisor Paul in this task this season. (Sigurd Towrie)

Jem, from Structure Ten, recording the GPS position of finds around Structure Twelve’s southern hearth. Jem is assisting Trench J supervisor Paul in this task this season. (Sigurd Towrie)

In Structure Ten, Sinead and her team have continued to work on the last remaining later floor deposits, particularly around the area of the south-western buttress, where they have been excavating the buttress’s foundations.

As well as producing more repurposed roof tiles, it seems that when the buttresses were added to the building during the remodelling necessitated by its collapse, a series of orthostatic recesses abutting the wall opposite the entrance were deliberately broken to make room.

Elsewhere in Ten, Sinead has been pondering a series of pits in the floor – particularly whether these might represent post-holes/pads to contain supports for the building’s massive – and presumably quite heavy – roof.

Lisa at work outside Structure Ten's

Lisa at work outside Structure Ten’s “paint workshop” in the building’s north-western corner. (Sigurd Towrie)

Finally today, we had a visit from artist Elaine Robinson, from Bristol.

Elaine, accompanied by her friend Anne, stopped off at the Ness as part of her SPOTtimespotTIME project, where she collected fingerprints from the diggers. The Ness came to Elaine’s attention when she heard about the prehistoric fingerprints spotted on pottery sherds by our ceramics specialist Jan Blatchford.

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