Dig Diary – Friday, July 26, 2019

Day Twenty

Structure Twenty-Seven looking resplendent from the air. Click the image for a larger version. (Scott Pike)

A surprise in Jim’s ‘corner of loveliness’

Today marks the half-way point of the 2019 excavation. This is a very sobering thought, especially as the rain which has plagued us intermittently has led to the loss of at least three days of digging.

We soldier on, and today at least has been lovely and sunny.

Much of the attention this morning centred on Trench T where the team was given a tight schedule to clean all the surfaces for photography by Jim Bright, and later with Scott’s drone.

They did a great job and the mass clean showed Structure Twenty-Seven at its best thus far. It will get even better. Only a little of the midden has been left and the images taken show clearly the extent and detail of the demolition rubble.

Jim’s close-up photographs and Scott’s drone images will be put together to create 3D models of the trench and structure and we hope to have these ready at the beginning of next week.

Structure Twenty-Seven cleaned and ready for aerial photography. (Sigurd Towrie)

Scott and his assistant, Elena, were also using the infra-red equipment on the drone and we are very curious to see what this might reveal. Nick suspects that there are hearths inside Structure Twenty-Seven and we wonder if they will show up.

Tristan at work by the eastern entrance to Structure Twelve with the later annexe to his right. (Sigurd Towrie)

The surprise of the day came just outside Structure Twelve in the later annexe, which incorporates the two standing stones. Careful excavation by Tristan uncovered a stone with masses of pecked and incised decoration incorporating lines and triangles, although site director Nick thinks that it may not be in its original position.

The only person unsurprised by this was Structure Twelve supervisor Jim, who has long called this section outside the entrance to his structure the site’s “corner of loveliness”.

Lovely or not, it is certainly fascinating.

The incised stone by the eastern entrance to Structure Twelve. Click the image for a larger version. (Sigurd Towrie)

Working there Claire and Sigurd have been removing more of the rubble around the new standing stone.

Although it has been possibly snapped off at the top there are hopes that it might still be 4-5 ft. high.  Work there has been slowed a bit by the discovery of more animal bone and pot, including applied cordons from a vessel which look suspiciously as if they may be deliberately coloured black.

Some of the pot from the Structure Twelve annexe that may have had colour applied to the decorative cordons (Sigurd Towrie)

This would fit with the coloured pot which has already been discovered in and around Structure Twelve but we will have to wait until the pot has dried out a bit before we can make a decision.

Site director Nick had a variety of visitors today, although this may be the last time we use his site director’s title.

His most exuberant visitors today were a large group of Brownies from Middlesborough. Nick held them spellbound by his description of the site and we have now decided that his new job title should be Brown Owl.

Site director Nick with the visiting Middlesborough Brownies. (Jo Bourne)

He has been having thoughts about a side slab in the entrance to the ephemeral Structure Sixteen, which is just across the passageway from the entrance to the larger building Structure Fourteen.

Nick now wonders if this is in fact marking the position of the building and, taken together with other elements of this sort on site, may suggest that standing stones were used to for precisely this purpose in relation to individual structures.

We were delighted to have on site today the eminent archaeologist Niall Sharples from the University of Cardiff. 

Niall has worked extensively in the Western Isles and in Orkney, indeed supervised at the original Links of Noltland, Westray, excavation in 1981, together with a very young Nick.

He visited together with Lisa Brown of Historic Environment Scotland and both seemed impressed by the Ness.

The weekend has now arrived and we will rest up until Monday when we will see you all again.

Until then…