Dig Diary – Bone deposit outside Twenty-Seven brings Structure Ten’s decommissioning to mind
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Where does the time go?
After what seems like the blink of an eye, today was the penultimate day of archaeological work on site.
As a result it was a day that saw most of the team engaged finishing off the mountains of paperwork that accompany a major archaeological excavation.
But while diggers and their supervisors rushed to and fro around the site carrying handfuls of context sheets, copies of plans, ring binders and notebooks, things were altogether more serene over in Trench T.
Serene, but, it turned out, no less exiting.
As the clock hit 4pm, this diary writer was expecting today’s entry to be very short indeed. But, as always, the Ness of Brodgar saves the best until last.
Outside the sublime north-western wall of Structure Twenty-Seven, Tristan, Tony, Lewis and Katie had been quietly working down through the rubble layer that butted against it.
And although there’s a bit to go, it seems that the stepped foundation of the building, akin to that evident in Structure Ten, has not only survived but has almost been reached.
It seems that the glorious paving that is now visible outside the robbed-out south-eastern wall is mirrored on the building’s opposite side.
But the Structure Ten parallels don’t end there.
In the north-western corner Tony has unearthed a wealth of animal bone – remains that seem to have been placed on the paving surrounding Twenty-Seven.
Fans of the Ness will immediately recall the mass of cattle bone deposited around Structure Ten after its “decommissioning feast” around 2400BC.
Do we have something similar around Twenty-Seven? Unfortunately, we ran out of time today but will be back on site tomorrow for the last day of excavation before the big cover-up operation begins on Thursday.
As regular readers will know, bone preservation at the Ness of Brodgar complex is not good, due to the acidity of the soil.
Outside Twenty-Seven’s glorious corner, however, we seem to have another example of a “micro-climate” – pockets across the site where the combination of rubble, drainage and deposits create conditions where organic material does survive remarkably well.
Although this discovery doesn’t mean we’ll be able to provide answers to the many questions that still surround Structure Twenty-Seven this year, we’ll be back tomorrow and further excavation of the suspected paved area and the bone deposit will set us in good stead for the 2023 dig season.
We’ll be back tomorrow to update you on what turns up.
Until then, remember that tomorrow, Wednesday, is the last day the site is open to the public and the last day of tours.
Work to cover the site begins on Thursday and, all going well, the site will be put to bed for another year by close of business on Friday.
If you’ve got a few hours to spare on Thursday or Friday and feel charitable enough to lend a hand, believe me we’d be more than happy to see you. As the saying goes, many hands make light work. Details here.
Archaeological work at the Ness of Brodgar has been ongoing since 2006 and over that time we’ve made lots of new friends.
The downside of our short excavation season is that you always have to bid these friends goodbye after a few weeks.
While today saw the departure of a number of the excavation team, including supervisors Andy and Sinead, it was also the last day of someone no less important to the smooth operation of the Ness of Brodgar site.
Tammy Evans, from British Columbia, Canada, arrived on site in July as a volunteer meet-and-greeter. If you’ve visited this summer, you will have undoubtedly met her.
All the Ness team would like to thank Tammy for all her help, infectious enthusiasm (even in the not-so-balmy conditions of an Orcadian summer) and tour-group organisational skills – the 1pm group were in position, ready and waiting when their tour guide arrived this afternoon! Now that’s efficiency!
So, thank-you Tammy and we dearly hope to see you back again.