Antiquarian delvings on the Ness

Evidence for earlier excavations at the Ness – probably in the early 1880s – has come to light in a handwritten note from the papers, manuscripts and notebooks kept by James Walls Cursiter.

Cursiter was a well-known Orcadian antiquarian in the late 1800s. He was Stanley Cursiter’s uncle and lived at Daisybank, on Berstane Road, Kirkwall before moving to Edinburgh in 1916.

Cursiter’s handwritten note.

The original written script, which relates to the “mound near the Brig of Brodgar” –  now part of the Ness of Brodgar excavation site and the location of Trench T – was passed to Orcadian archaeologist Chris Gee after being found in an old leather case in the former home of his great-great grandmother.

This particular fragment was in a batch of written papers on The Antiquities of Stenness, which was possibly a draft for a future publication.

The note, pictured above, reads:

“…tumulus which has not been thoroughly examined. Mr Clouston previous to opening Onston found in it hundreds of rude-stone, chipped implements of sandstone and a stone lamp. Flint chips have also been found on its west side, where the ground is cultivated. Mr James Noble found in the debris a stone sinker which had also served as a whetstone. It was quadrangular section and one of its faces and one of its sides exhibited a considerable quantity of carving. An account of this stone appeared in Vol 10. Second series of the PSAS.”

James Noble’s 1888 Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland paper can be downloaded here and many thanks to Chris for sharing this find with us.

 

The decorated stone sinker referred to by Cursiter in his note. (After Noble 1888. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland. Vol. 22, pp. 266-7.
The “decorated stone sinker” referred to by Cursiter in his handwritten note. (After Noble 1888. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland. Vol. 22, pp. 266-7.)