Dig Diary – Back in business with a full team!
Monday, July 4, 2022
The Ness of Brodgar has come alive once more.
After the long, frustrating months of Covid and the truncated excavation of 2021, we are now back in business with a full team and the most exciting archaeology in Northern Europe in prospect.
Of course we will share it with you all. Wherever you are in the world, an internet connection will bring you our daily Dig Diary containing all the details of each day of excavation.
And “participation” is the important word. We don’t do lectures; we tell you what we have discovered and look forward to your thoughts and questions.
First things first.
The site has, as in every winter, been protected from Orkney’s rumbustious elements with coverings of plastic sheets held down by many hundreds of tyres.
These have to be removed and it is not the easiest, or most pleasant, task.
Rolling, folding and storing huge sheets of wet and grimy plastic in a gusty wind is not for the faint-hearted. However, the excavation team are substantially boosted today by several people who have come along to help, and most notably by 15 stalwarts from Orkney’s famous Highland Park distillery.
Work is progressing quickly and with luck most of the site, including the mysterious Trench T, will be uncovered by the end of the day. That will, of course, depend on whether the unpredictable Orkney weather behaves well.
Site director Nick has been thinking long and hard about how to proceed. He hopes that work on Structure Eight will finish off the remaining sections of the primary levels and that this will allow us to see more of Structures Seventeen and Eighteen, which are the older buildings under Eight.
Much of Structure Seventeen actually lies within the overall outline of Structure Eight and some elements of the older and smaller building have been incorporated into Eight. And like Structure Eight, Structure Seventeen seems to have had a stone-tiled roof.
Structure Eighteen lies underneath the northern end of Structure Eight but is set at roughly right angles to the later building.
Traces of it which have been exposed suggest that Eighteen had a yellow clay floor and, most unusually, the possibility that part of its interior wall had been “pointed” with yellow clay, which infilled the spaced between the courses of masonry.
Trench T, with the extraordinary Structure Twenty-Seven, should also be uncovered today. Readers from previous years will recall that it is a very large sub-rectangular building built directly on to the natural boulder clay at the bottom of the massive midden deposit which runs down to the Loch of Stenness.
The internal space of this building is defined by enormous slabs of stone set horizontally along the interior walls, for all the world like recumbent standing stones.
We don’t know the function or date of this building yet but, have patience, as excavation will begin on it next week when our team of students from Willamette University in Oregan arrives, led by their Professor Scott Pike.
We began by saying the Ness had come alive again today. That struck a chord with Jan, one of our ceramics specialists, who pointed out that, in the Neolithic, people would have come from far and wide to visit the Ness and to work communally on the buildings.
Looking at our international team busy on the structures today, and with many visitors to arrive soon, it is not fanciful to think that life has, indeed, returned to this remarkable place.
We’ll be back tomorrow.