An entrance to Structure Ten’s outer passageway?
Dig Diary – Day Five
Friday, July 2, 2021
We can hardly believe it, but today ends the first week at the Ness for the 2021 excavation season!
We know how you all love to hear about the weather (well, some of you do) so we are happy to report yet another warm, sunny day. As we mentioned yesterday, the drying atmosphere leaches colour variation from sections which are being dug, and when the sun is out the shadows play havoc with seeing clearly what you are doing.
We are not complaining though, because the archaeology has been fascinating.
There was excitement when Chris Gee who was cleaning back part of the robber trench of the wall of Structure Thirty-Two – which lies over part of Structure Five – found what at first looked like a large chisel-headed arrowhead.
This is a type of arrowhead in which the “business end” is broad and flat, rather than pointed as in more traditional arrowheads.
Professor Mark Edmonds, who is working on site today, described how they are found in many areas in the later Neolithic period and that he and colleagues have discovered the exact flint, of which several Orcadian examples are made, on Orkney beaches. This tends to squash the earlier theory that they were an import to Orkney.
Is this example a chisel-headed arrowhead? Alas no. A closer look suggests that it is a flint flake which, by chance or not, closely resembles a chisel-headed arrowhead.
The giveaway to its probable status is that it has not been re-touched, by which we mean the shape has not been refined by secondary flaking.
We will have experts examine it for a final verdict but the whole subject of chisel-headed arrowheads, several of which have been found at the Ness, is fascinating
A traditional pointed arrowhead can certainly do some damage but (could the squeamish look away at this point) a deer or person struck by one could continue to run, or fight, for some time before succumbing to blood loss.
A chisel-headed arrowhead, with its broad, sharp leading edge can inflict much more damage as the width of the edge makes it likelier that it would strike a major artery or organ, thus bringing down its target quickly.
There was further interest when Structure Ten supervisor Sinead, who was cutting back and cleaning an eroded section of Trench P, north of Ten’s north wall noticed what may have been another entrance to the outer pathway surrounding the building. It is flanked by two widely-spaced orthostats.
This is particularly interesting as Structure Eight at the nearby Barnhouse Settlement – which is very similar to our Structure Ten – had an entrance in its enclosing wall that faced the site of Maeshowe.
The putative entrance in Structure Ten’s enclosing wall faces directly north.
Meanwhile, the interior of Structure Ten has been covered with a grid and is now being planned by Professor Edmonds and Claire, a highly-experienced excavator who is new to the site this year.
Over in Trench J, work on the extension has continued today and has brought fascinating results.
A small section of wall has been uncovered but it is unclear yet whether this belongs to Structure Five or Structure Thirty-Two, or indeed both!
Nearby a curious stone is beginning to appear. It is still half-buried but it looks as if it could be a large quernstone. In the very recent past we would have washed this stone when it was removed in order to examine it for marks which might confirm its use.
Now we have better techniques, some of which have already been used on grinding stones. The surface of the stone will not be touched because the new techniques can examine the very finest residues in the most exquisite detail in order to determine its use exactly.
Trench J has also produced what used to be called a fabricator. Put simply this is a bi-facially flaked flint. It is , as Nick says, pointy, and may well have been used for making some of the fine artefacts for which the Ness is known.
We are all looking forward to the weekend, and also to the arrival on Monday of Structure Twelve veteran supervisor, Jim Rylatt. Many of us, especially the pot fraternity, are anxious for work to begin again on Structure Twelve, known to us as “pot central” due to the volume of ceramics it has produced in the past.
We hope to see you all next week.