Dig Diary – Friday, July 5, 2019

Day Five

Rain rain go away…

Structure Twenty-Seven at the bottom of Trench T – complete with obligatory rain on the lens. Conditions over the past few days has made photography nigh on impossible. (Emily O’Farrell)

Modern archaeology interacts with many other disciplines and our colleagues at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are developing an international reputation for their work linking evidence for climate change in the past with strategies for coping with its modern equivalent.

We can put the whole proposition more simply. Will it please, please stop raining.

It has been a desperate week of rain and wind at the Ness and everyone is waterlogged and just a tad miserable.

Two things are keeping us going. The first is our magnificent team who, having laboured hard in appalling conditions to remove the wet plastic, tyres and rocks which protected the site over the winter, have carried on with equally difficult tasks. There has been no digging to speak of, for waterlogged soil is virtually impossible to trowel without causing major damage to the evidence within.

Structure Twenty-Seven. The orange lines represent the outer wall face; red the inner wall face; green the vertical orthostats forming the inner wall face cladding; yellow represents large prone orthostats and black vertical orthostat divisions. The blue line is a drain.
Structure Twenty-Seven. The orange lines represent the outer wall face; red the inner wall face; green the vertical orthostats forming the inner wall face cladding; yellow represents large prone orthostats and black vertical orthostat divisions. The blue line is a drain.

Site director Nick set many of the team to work today to de-turf two extensions to Trench T. This is back-breaking work. The upper layer of turf is wet and muddy while underneath it is surprisingly dry and hard. He professes to feeling guilty about imposing this task on them but, to be honest, he is so wet that facial evidence of guilt tends to be obscured by mud.

These extensions could be extremely important. We hope that they may reveal corners of the building (Structure Twenty-Seven) while geophysics hints that the structure walls to the north west side may be much better preserved due to the greater overburden of midden which blankets them.

Inside Trench Y during a brief break in the rain. (Sigurd Towrie)

Mike and Linda are working hard today in Trench Y, completing work on one of the hearths, while in Trench J Paul and his team tried hard to trowel properly before giving in to the conditions.

The second element keeping us going is the visitors who continue to turn up in large numbers, huddling against the rain but determined to learn all they can of this amazing site. Their determination lifts our spirits.

Some special groups also appeared today. Nick showed a party of volunteer guides from the National Museum of Scotland around the site this morning. They were fascinated by what they saw and came up with the excellent suggestion that our national museum in Edinburgh should put on a special Ness exhibition. We think this is a great idea and wonder why nobody has proposed it before.

Another party visited from the University of Liege in Belgium and one of our great supporters, an expat Orcadian from Australia, arrived with his relatives from Australia and Florida.

Looking ahead, the weekend weather and for the whole of next week looks like a vast improvement on recent days.

We will have site tours on Saturday and Sunday at 11am and 3pm. Many of our trench supervisors will also arrive at the weekend and we look forward to the impact their expertise will make.

As your diarist is dripping on to the computer keyboard we think it wise to stop now before there is an electrical incident.

Catch up with us next week.