Dig Diary – It’s all over for another year

Roy with one of the last tour groups of the season outside Structure Eight. (Sigurd Towrie)

Roy with one of the last tour groups of the season outside Structure Eight. (Sigurd Towrie)

Day Thirty-Three
Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Well, it has arrived. The end of excavation for this year.

The black plastic sheeting and the tyres have been moved into position for the task of covering the site and, yes, we would still welcome volunteers to help us with this task on Thursday and Friday.

Digging continued today together with the last of the planning and recording which is so necessary in maintaining the site record.

Pottery sherds found outside Structure Twenty-Seven. (Ole Thoenies)

Pottery sherds found outside Structure Twenty-Seven. (Ole Thoenies)

A strange collection of small pottery sherds recovered from Trench T has been subjected to special attention.

It has a strange elongated “blob” of fired clay applied to an area of the interior of the pot, just below the rim.

The rim sherd has broken exactly at this point and through the blob. This does not look like decoration on the sherd interior and neither does it look like a patch applied over a crack in the sherd.

A crack would only have been spotted by the potter after the sherd was fired. We are not suggesting for one minute that the blob was then applied as raw clay and then everything was fired again.

Pottery sherds from outside Structure Twenty-Seven. (Ole Thoenies)

Pottery sherds from outside Structure Twenty-Seven. (Ole Thoenies)

Even more suspicious is the incised line which runs horizontally from the blob and round the interior of the rim. It stops at a point where the rim thickens again, to much the same dimension as the initial part of the blob. Could this be another blob?

A simpler explanation is that the potter has just pinched the clay together at the interior of the pot and squeezed it into the blob.

This seems strange indeed, but is perhaps the easiest way to explain it.

Our bone expert, Professor Ingrid Mainland, from the UHI Archaeology Institute, visited the site today and examined the bone deposit outside Structure Twenty-Seven.

She says the bone is similar in some respects to the bone deposit around Structure Ten, but is a mixed deposit composed of bone from different animals, smaller than the Structure Ten beasts, and only lightly burned.

We hope to return to this next year and perhaps excavate more of the deposit using the “Smart Fauna” technique pioneered by Ingrid.

The Trench T team take a well-earned break outside the toolshed. (Jo Bourne)

The Trench T team take a well-earned break outside the toolshed. (Jo Bourne)

Regular readers of the dig diary will have come across the names of some of the diggers and specialists who work here. But running a huge and vastly complex endeavour like the Ness calls for many people and multiple layers of activity.

All these people are vital to what happens and now we have a chance to thank them (If any are missed out accidentally, we apologise, but you know we love you).

Our biggest bouquet of thanks goes to Rosemary McCance. For many years Rosemary and her husband Neil, now sadly no longer with us, produced thousands of finds bags, all carefully inscribed with the details necessary to ensure that nothing could go missing.

This is a huge task and so valuable to diggers struggling in rain or wind who formerly would have to write out bag details in full.

For the last two years Rosemary has carried out this task alone and we simply cannot thank her enough.

Ingrid in the site shop. (Jo Bourne)

Ingrid in the site shop. (Jo Bourne)

We also thank Orkney Islands Council, the American Friends of the Ness of Brodgar, the Orkney Archaeology Society and the Historic Environment Scotland rangers, the last of whom generously carry out the afternoon site tours giving our regulars, and their throats, a rest.

We are hugely grateful to our team of meeters and greeters, who ensure that visitors are warmly welcomed, and also to Ingrid who ran the on-site shop and thereby bring in the financial support without which we could not continue.

Huge thanks also to the team at the Maeshowe Visitor Centre who hosted an exhibition of our artefacts, and especially to Katie and Norna who put everything together.

Site director Nick wants to thank the team of remarkable diggers who have toiled tirelessly in the trenches, including the US contingent from Willamette University, Oregon, and their leader, Professor Scott Pike.

The 2022 finds team outside Structure Eight. (Sigurd Towrie)

Lorraine, Anne, Gary, Sara and Rosalind – the 2022 finds team – outside Structure Eight. (Sigurd Towrie)

Massive thanks to Anne and her finds team who make sure that all of the post-excavation work which is still to come can be carried out efficiently and with a minimum of angst. This also includes the many others who work behind the scenes.

For our part, we want to thank Nick for all his work, patience and leadership in what must be one of the most difficult jobs in archaeology. And special hugs to Tam the trainee site dog who, we confidently expect, will be elevated to official site dog by next year.

We also want to thank the thousands of visitors who came to see us this year, and also the army of friends and supporters of the Ness all around the world.

We have to leave you now, but please continue to follow our activities on the Ness website throughout the year.

We will be back in, yes, little more than ten months.

See you then.

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