Diary – Thursday, July 9, 2020

Day Four

Sorry folks but once again I start this diary with the weather.

But in 2015 it was foul, meaning much of Thursday, July 9, 2015, was taken up with preparing for yet another deluge that saw all excavation work cancelled the following day.

2015: The floor deposits in Structure Fourteen are brought back to life with a careful clean. (ORCA)

2015: The floor deposits in Structure Fourteen are brought back to life with a careful clean. (ORCA)

There was, though, some good news to report – the site clean-up was finished and, weather permitting, excavation in earnest was due to start. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t permit.

Meanwhile, over in Structure Fourteen, the short-lived sunshine did mean that the different soil and stone colours and shades were clearly apparent and some new slots spotted that once held upright stones – possibly evidence of former “furniture”.

2016: A large, stone bead from the Central Paved Area. (ORCA)

In 2016, the thorny problem being considered was how best to scientifically sample the exposed floor surfaces of the structures.

The quandary involved how best to strike a balance.

To extract every piece of information from the floors and their content requires, unsurprisingly, precise and extremely detailed sampling. But to instigate a sampling programme of this intensity brings with it problems. First and foremost it would take time. When I say time, I mean years – particularly in the complicated floors of Structures Eight and Twelve. On top of that is the cost. Scientific analysis doesn’t come cheap and to sample at this level would be expensive. Very expensive.

After a long discussion with the site supervisors, dig director Nick decided the best way forward was to continue using the tried-and-tested rigorous sampling already in place on site, but to allow this to be altered as an when necessary. We have the most up-to-date technology available and using it allows us to recover highly detailed information without getting bogged down in micromanagement.

A close-up of the new bead.

2016: A close-up of the bead.

It was decided that instead of laying the floor sampling grids in alignment with the site grid – which would have complicated matters excessively –  they would align to the actual structure. This is far simpler and should speed matters up significantly. In addition, a series of sondages (carefully planned and relatively deep holes) would also be inserted into floors to determine the composition of the floor deposits.

Finds-wise, a large, black, stone bead (pictured right) was found in the Central Paved Area between Structures One, Twelve and Eight. It was different from previous bead finds in that it was noticeably more globular.

2017: The team gather at Trench T to hear the latest thoughts from supervisor Dave.

For 2017’s offering today, we’re jumping ahead to July 12, because July 8 was a Saturday.

That day saw a major milestone in the life of Trench T – it was opened to visitors for the first time.

Inside the trench, the number of the dreaded pits had grown to over 50, hampering excavation, but the visiting public didn’t seem to mind. Even at this early stage of excavation, the enigmatic nature of Structure Twenty-Seven had clearly captured their imaginations.

Meanwhile, Structure One was changing. The curved wall inserted across the middle of the building in its second phase, reducing the building in size, was being removed to allow investigation of its primary phase.

Next door to Structure One, Structure Fourteen produced another sherd of carinated bowl, matching the sherd from July 2014 which dated from c3500BC.

2018: Excavation in Structure Twenty-Six. (Sigurd Towrie)

2018: Suspected pestle from Structure Twenty-Six. (Sigurd Towrie)

Monday, July 9, 2018, was the start of the second week of the season.

Work to open Trench Y continued apace while over in Trench T, you’ve guessed it, more pits – described aptly as “enigmatic affairs” that had “bedevilled Trench T for the last year and more”.

Structure Twenty-Six continued to be the star of the show. A wealth of finds came from the material filling the building representing artefacts from very late in the life of the Ness.

2018: Two of the large pot sherds recovered from Structure Twenty-Six. (Sigurd Towrie)

As well as a selection of stone tools, there was a large sandstone block with a depression on the top (perhaps a pestle stone) and sherds from an incredibly handsome later Grooved Ware vessel.

This pot had applied cordons which had been incised vertically into short sections, and in one part of the pot, where two cordons treated this way are one above the other, they give a slight impression of bricks in a wall. The pot also featured circular impressions linking diverging cordons and carefully incised lines running right round the interior of the rim.

 

 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019, was heralded an “exciting day” and it most certainly was. After the stuttering start to the season caused by poor weather, shortly after work began the finds began emerge in a steady stream. As the finds came in so did the new insights and revelations in structures across the site.

In Trench T, work continued removing the midden deposit overlying the demolition level associated with Structure Twenty-Seven, while Structure Twelve saw supervisor Jim ponder the ash dump at the building’s southern end – particularly whether they represented the remains of extensive cooking episodes. Meanwhile, in Structure Ten it seemed the lack of a primary floor in the south-western interior was because it was removed when the building was cleared out before remodelling.

Other new insights related to Structure Five in Trench J. In 2018, a second side entrance was found but this doorway had been deliberately blocked. Excavation last year revealed that this doorway once led to a passageway or entranceway…

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