Dig Diary – Fond farewells and another ‘butterfly’ from Structure Ten
Friday, August 12, 2022
Today is the last day of our penultimate week and it means that we must say goodbye to a number of friends and colleagues who are leaving – some to return to their jobs and others to university courses.
Notable amongst them are the team from Willamette University who arrived as beginners and leave as highly effective diggers. They have done a marvellous job in Trench T and have adapted well to the rigours of British archaeology.
Today they have been preparing their area of the site for eventual closing down, and this has meant the unpleasant, but highly necessary task of checking and cleaning acres of black plastic sheeting and tyres for the final covering to protect the site over the winter.
We want to reassure those who will come as visitors next week that the main structures will not be covered until after the last site tour which will take place on Wednesday afternoon, and that includes the magnificent Structure Twenty-Seven.
In Structure Ten, Travis removed the last large orthostat which was leaning up against the north inner wall face. To his surprise the edge of the stone which had been buried has a line of large irregular notches, reminiscent of the stone which was uncovered in 2003 and which prompted the initial investigation of what is now our remarkable site.
In some cases these large stones with notches were probably wall plates which help support the feet of the roof trusses, or A-frames, that held up the remarkable stone slated roofs at the Ness.
There was another surprise for Travis when he gently sponged the surface of the orthostat with water and found that there are faint incised patterns on one side including a potential “Brodgar butterfly”.
Professor Scott Pike took his final series of images from his drone, concentrating on Trench J and Structure Eight. He will use the images, not just as highly accurate photographic records, but also to construct 3d models of the buildings. The drizzle which fell throughout the afternoon was annoying but, ironically, it led to perfect conditions for taking photographs as there was no strong light to create annoying shadows.
Lunchtime on site held a variety of treats as a farewell surprise to those bidding fond farewells.
Those of the eatable variety were generously supplied by Jeanne, one of our on-site artists, together with contributions from Sinead, Sarah, Ole, Becca, Anne and Lisa.
Chris Gee, who is a master at making wonderful replicas of stone artefacts, also arrived on with three replica carved stone balls.
To everyone’s astonishment Kat, one of the Willamettes, began to juggle expertly with the balls, as did Paul, the Trench J supervisor. We had no idea we had such talents amongst us and, if archaeology eventually palls, they both have an alternative way to earn a living.
Be assured, though, we do not juggle on site with real artefacts!!
Site director Nick was delighted to show around the site two old friends.
In the dim and distant past, he worked on Sanday excavations of Pool and Toftsness with Keith Prosser, the renown re-enactor, and Alan Braby, the brilliant archaeological illustrator. Both were on their way back south having been working at Swandro on Rousay.
Our numbers will be depleted next week when we start the all-important job of covering the site with black plastic held down by tyres.
This is quite heavy work and we need as much assistance as possible. We would love to have people to help us on Thursday and Friday of next week.
If you can come, please turn up at 9am wearing old clothing, waterproofs and stout boots, together with a packed lunch – we will be eternally grateful!
Enjoy the weekend.