Dig Diary – All hands on deck for pre-photography cleaning sessions
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
For all those fed-up with Ness weather reports – look away now!
For all those who are kinder souls, who care deeply about the sufferings of diggers in trenches and who want to reach out to them with flasks of water, or possibly beer, this introduction is for you.
It is hot today. Admittedly nothing to compare with the sufferings of comrades in the south of England but, for Orcadian constitutions, quite hot enough, thank you.
Unfortunately, the strong sun was joined in malevolent purpose by a very gusty wind which whipped the Stenness loch into white-horses and dry and dusty diggers into extreme tiredness.
They are a tough lot, though, our diggers.
Today was the day for cleaning, tidying and prettifying the trenches ready for extensive photography by Professor Scott Pike’s drone and they cleaned and prettified with a will.
By early afternoon Structure Twenty-Seven was looking magnificent and all the more so because the removal of the last area of robber debris over the west corner uncovered even more spectacular dressed stone in the wall.
Scott was particularly keen to take images today because there are rumours of some rain tomorrow, so diggers were cleared from the trenches and visitors were not allowed anywhere near.
It is no easy matter to fly a drone in strong wind but Scott has been doing it for years, including pioneer drone work surveying ancient Greek stone quarries.
There are still hopes that he could also take images of Structure Ten, but, as we write, the wind seems even stronger and it is looking less likely. Fingers crossed.
A flagstone is covering the post-hole but we should be able to lift it soon. Will it hold an interesting deposit, such as the other post-holes which contained stone tools, decorated stones and even a chunk of whalebone? We should know very soon.
Elsewhere in Trench J the removal of rubble between Structure Five and the northern boundary of the “Great Wall of Brodgar” has allowed our resident geologist, Martha, and her assistant Gary, to assess the type and condition of the stones in the exposed inner wall face.
At lunchtime everyone had the rare treat of a talk by Dr Victoria Mullin, of Trinity College, Dublin, on her work with cattle DNA. Her results should key into wider work on Neolithic cattle and, in particular at the Ness, the number and possible identity of the herds represented on site.
Towards the end of the day Chris discovered, in Structure Ten, a decorated stone which is in the vicinity of the eastern recess. Although not the clearest of decoration it looks like a badly executed or unfinished horned spiral design.
We are also happy to announce that the very well-received exhibition of Ness artefacts at the Maeshowe Visitor Center in Stenness village has now been extended by another week until Friday, August 19.
We now have little more than a week left to work at the Ness this year.
It has been highly successful, but also highly expensive to carry out such a massive dig with the care and academic rigour which is expected.
As the notices on site say, we are funded almost entirely by the public. Therefore, we appeal again for donations to enable us to return next year. Supporters can also help us by visiting our online shop.
The Ness is every bit as much your site as it is ours, so please consider carefully if you can give us a hand.