Dig Diary – Friday, August 25, 2017

Day Forty


A sea of tyres…


Farewell and thank you all . . .

That’s it folks.

The wonderful Ness of Brodgar has returned to its winter slumber, with the sheets of black plastic tenderly wrapped over it.

It has been a tremendous season of archaeology, and we want to begin this last dig diary by thanking the people who have made it all possible.

We begin with Ola and Arnie Tait who own the field and who have been so kind to us over many years in allowing us to dig on their property. We can honestly say that without them none of this would have happened.

It is not just us who owe them a debt of gratitude, but also the world of scholarship, and everyone, everywhere, who is interested in archaeology and the stories of our forebears.

Huge thanks are also due to Neil and Rosemary McCance who, year after year, have produced countless thousands of finds bags. These are the little plastic bags into which diggers pop their finds.

Many of us have worked on sites where the bags are blank, and frozen fingers have to write out site, context and small find details on the bags as the rain pours down.

Neil and Rosemary do most of that for us, making the work of excavation quicker and much more enjoyable.

We also want to thank Jim Middlemas, who, unlike all of us, can do everything conceivable with wood, nails, plastic etc.

To name just two of his exploits this year, he has built a shelter for Sarah in Structure Ten and a cunning wooden framework to support a wobbly orthostat.

HES Rangers Sandra, Elaine and Keith must also be thanked for their never ending enthusiasm during the afternoon tours they lead.

Enormous thanks also to all the diggers, find hut workers, site supervisors, meeters-and-greeters , volunteers and the shop staff from the Orkney Archaeological Society.

Everyone on site has worked hard and fruitfully, and they also want to thank the many people who have brought food and drink, usually with chocolate content, to sustain us in hard times.

So many people have helped us that, inevitably, there will be names and organisations missing from this list.  Please accept our thanks, whoever you are.

Last, we want to thank the thousands of visitors who poured into the site over these two busy months.

There have been 20,000 of you this year from all over the world and, almost without exception, you have been enthusiastic and encouraging. We hope to see many of you next year.

Now to the archaeology.

Site director Nick acknowledges that the dreams and expectations of the pre-season period cannot always be fulfilled.

He also points out, ruefully, that much is weather-dependent, however, the weather has been pretty reasonable this year.

Taking a step back, he is delighted with the fantastic teamwork shown throughout which he describes as being, in many ways, “heroic”.

Trench T has been a source of frustration and delight.

He had hoped to reveal more of the plan of Structure Twenty-Seven, but the discovery of more pits, sometimes curiously lined or revetted with insubstantial bits of walling, have slowed progress down.

More of the south end of the building, and of the long, recumbent orthostats has been uncovered and, further up the structure, there are now hints of what might be an entrance.

The good news is that the discovery of more wall at the south end suggests that there may be more of the structure surviving than we had thought originally.

The even better news is that, by pure good fortune, the southern end of the trench went just far enough to reveal the handsome turn in the end wall. If the trench had been a few inches shorter we might have missed it altogether.

Trench P has ticked over like clockwork and the removal of more infill over Structure Twenty-Six next year may reveal important information about the relationship between several structures there.

Trench J, reopened this year, has proved fascinating and will repay more work next year.

Nick suspected that it would be an early Neolithic building and now confirms that it is a classic Knap of Howar structure, clearly early but also much bigger than the example on Papa Westray.

This also raises interesting questions about the “Great Wall of Brodgar”, which curls closely around the building, suggesting that it, too, may be very early in the history of the site.

As ever at the Ness, there are many more questions than answers, but we are working on them, and look forward to sharing the results with you all next year.

Until then…

…but do keep an eye out for some special blogs in the weeks to come.

However do remember that without your support none of this would happen — we rely heavily on your support as public funding is very limited — please consider making a contribution to our funding through the Ness of Brodgar Trust charity.

Thank you all!

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