Dig Diary – Friday, August 5, 2016

Day Twenty-Five

A perfect day for excavationn in Trench P.

A perfect day for excavationn in Trench P.

Astounding generosity and a daunting discovery . . .

We have two huge events to report today. The first is the utterly amazing response to our appeal for help with the repair of our ruined car park, soaked and churned to a sea of axle-deep mud by the weather in recent days.

A very large sum of money had to be laid out for this purpose and the resulting hole in our site funds was seriously alarming. The diary appealed for assistance and, within a space of hours, the funding hole had been filled through the generosity of readers far and wide.

Mai and Katherine record one of the massive sections on Trench T.

Mai and Katherine record one of the massive sections on Trench T.

We simply can’t thank you enough. Indeed, words are not sufficient and we would like to give you all a big hug. That being impossible, please give yourself a big hug on our behalf.

The second big event is archaeological, but you’ll have to wait until a bit further on in the diary for that as we have a rather sad task first.

Today is the last day for our excellent crew of diggers from Willamette University, in Oregon, USA, and their leader, Professor Scott Pike.

Site director Nick says their work has been excellent, as usual, and we would be delighted to see some of them back next year along with Scott’s next batch of students. They have been cheerful and hard-working in testing conditions and for that they have our heartfelt thanks.

It’s also time to say goodbye to some of our volunteer (but highly experienced) diggers. Some are first-timers at the Ness and some are old friends, but we hope they will all find their way back here next year.

We are also saying goodbye to our very latest media visitors, a film team from Mekong Productions, in Germany, who are making a film on the Gulf Stream and are filming at the Ness as well. Actually, we probably owe a lot to the Gulf Stream as its warmer waters might have been partly instrumental in bringing Orkney’s first settlers here in the Mesolithic period, and thus leading to the later establishment of the Ness.

Sarah and Alison hard at work disentangling the floors in Structure Ten.

Sarah and Alison hard at work disentangling the floors in Structure Ten.

Now to our second huge, and this time firmly archaeological, event.

In Structure Ten structure supervisor Sarah and Jenny and Alison have been investigating the floor layers and apparent levelling events.

They have discovered something really startling. It seems there could be only one major floor in Structure Ten, rather than the multiple floors which we had expected to find.

Instead, it seems that our Neolithic ancestors laid a handsome, yellow-clay floor inside the original Structure Ten and when, after a relatively short time this had to be remodelled due to collapse, they simply carried out the work on the original floor.

As if that’s not dramatic enough, Jim, the supervisor for Structure Twelve, now thinks that his building may also have just one single, major yellow-clay floor, although it, too, has clearly been extensively remodelled.

Melanie reveals more of the robbing on the mystery structure in Trench T.

Melanie reveals more of the robbing on the mystery structure in Trench T.

The implications of these discoveries are daunting.

If some of the structures have only one floor, how will we be able to tell Phase One of a building from Phase Two.

What will be the implications for the artefacts discovered on/in the floor and will floor sampling be able to separate out sufficiently different events or accumulations? Micromorphology to the rescue?

In some respects there will be a simplification. Sampling of the floor/s may now be a matter of decades rather than lifetimes (that comment comes directly from those taking the samples), but other elements of the understanding of these buildings and their contents will now be hideously complicated.

Work under way in Trench X, with the hills of Hoy reflected in the Loch of Stenness.

Work under way in Trench X, with the hills of Hoy reflected in the Loch of Stenness.

As the above is threatening to bring on a migraine we will turn, with relative relief, to Trench T, where more slabs and walling are being revealed but where the old problems persist.

Because of the extensive stone robbing from what may be a most remarkable building, or buildings, it is difficult to work out the relationship between the various features, even though it is accepted that they are, indeed, related. In other words, what goes with what is shrouded in mystery at the moment.

Time will tell.

And time is bringing us some more dreadful weather . . .

With apologies, we will have to shut the site completely on Sunday because of forecasts of drenching rain and gusts of wind up to 60mph.

We will be back on Monday (weather permitting, as more strong winds are now forecast) with full operations, shop and tours so, until then (we hope) . . .

From the Trenches

Today's blogger Kaitlin.

Today’s blogger Kaitlin.

Hello readers! My name is Kaitlin, this is my third season on site (I am also a Willamette University alumni) and this is end of my first week here.

This season I have been working in the fabulously named Trench X, with the always wonderful Anne and Colin. As many of you have previously read, there were quite a number of interesting finds coming from Trench X at the start of the season, but since I have been here, we haven’t been as lucky.

Today, Tonni found an interesting worked-stone vessel that may have been used for making pigments (we will find out of this theory is correct after further testing and analysis), but aside from that it’s been fairly quiet.

Last year, I worked with Colin on the little corner of Structure Twelve that was filled with pottery, so I suppose I was a bit spoiled as far as interesting finds were concerned or maybe I’ve just met my lifetime Ness finds quota.

The area I am presently working on is located next to the section that Chris Gee was excavating a few weeks ago, which had most of the exciting finds (however my area has not been as exciting). I am slowly working my down to get to the same context he was on, so once that happens hopefully we will start finding the good stuff again.

Tonight we are all looking forward to the annual site party at Nick’s house, which will be fun and we will be giving the Willamette students a proper send-off.

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