Dig Diary – Friday, August 2, 2019

Day Twenty-Five

Between two buildings – outside Structure One. (Jo Bourne)

Hearths, heating and Neolithic cuisine…

Dr Cathy Batt, assisted by Jonathan, at work in one of the Structure Eight hearths today. (Jo Bourne)

Hearths, heating and Neolithic cuisine were the focus of much of the work on site today.

Dr Cathy Batt, and her son and assistant Jonathan, arrived this morning to sample the hearths for archaeomagnetic dating (explained in yesterday’s diary).

Before she can do this the hearths need to be carefully cleaned and prepared.

There are several intriguing problems awaiting Cathy, including one of the hearths in Structure Eight, which may be an early Structure Eight construction, or which may be part of the underlying Structure Seventeen.

Archaeomagnetic sampling under way. (Jo Bourne)

Jim Rylatt, the Structure Twelve supervisor, hopes Cathy will be able to sample some of the large ash dumps from the north-west recess of his building and also some of the pits in both the north and south of the structure.

One of the aims will be to see if the sampled material gives different temperatures for the fires which existed there. If this is so, Jim wonders if there may have been something akin to a slow cooker operating within the building.

The blackened circles have also suggested to Jim that they may represent the remains of soot which could have come from the bases of the cooking pots placed in the slow cooker.

 This would tie in nicely with the heavy soot which adorns many of the exteriors of pots, indeed one pot being carefully examined at the moment, which came from just outside the east entrance to Structure Twelve, is thickly coated with soot. It also features some of the sloppiest, most careless decoration we have yet seen, even for the latter part of the Late Neolithic.

Work to make sense of the complexities of the apparent annexe to the eastern entrance of Structure Twelve continues. (Sigurd Towrie)

The eastern entrance to Structure Twelve continues to present considerable complexity.  New orthostats are emerging, together with what may be a threshold stone outside the flanking orthostats.

A series of later alcoves have also appeared within the demolition area. These are not finely built and are accompanied by yet more rubble, animal bone and degraded pottery. There may be a touch more clarity here now, but the “clarity” is still clouded.

Work continues at the north end of Structure Twelve in the Central Midden Area, near the discovery of the huge drain earlier this week.

In this location Structure Twenty-Four disappears under the later annexe of Structure Twelve, but now it looks as if it is curving and may instead have been part of Structure Thirty-Four.

A tiny stone disk recovered from the cell/passage outside the eastern entrance to Structure Twelve today. The smallest disk found on site to date and considerably smaller than the largest which had a diameter of around 50cm. (Sigurd Towrie)

However, clearing away more of the rubble present has revealed a sea of small orthostats, some of them chunky and others much thinner. With the eye of faith it might be possible to discern a symmetry to these, but the faith will have to be strong.

In Trench J, Jo and Scott have been consulting with supervisor Paul about a strategy for the floors. All are in agreement that they will have to be gridded and sampled, despite the amount of time and paperwork such a procedure takes.

Nick points out that the amount of information which gridding and sampling will supply makes the whole process more than worthwhile, especially as some of the deposits within Structure Five are secondary or even tertiary and that knowing the nature of their distribution will be invaluable. That task begins next week.

In Trench T, the extension to the east of the main trench has encountered more pesky pits, some of which are stone lined.  Hopefully they can be excavated, recorded and removed quickly.

On the western side, the team can now see some of the destruction in the area of the western corner of the building, although more work will be needed to clarify the information.

However, there is real disappointment that one of the massive, prone orthostats on the north-west side appears to have been robbed out. The stone robbers must have been particularly keen to dig out this orthostat, although it is not clear what use they would have had for it.

There is just a possibility that some of it may have survived. We will tell you, perhaps next week.