Dig Diary – Monday, August 5, 2019

Day Twenty-Six

The cupmarked stone, uncovered by Christine this afternoon, to the north side of Structure Twelve’s eastern entrance. (Sigurd Towrie)

Meanwhile, over in Cupmark Corner…

We woke up this morning to the sound of torrential rain lashing the rooftops of Orkney.

Which means, of course, that it was also lashing the trenches, walls, structures and precious floors of the Ness of Brodgar excavation site.

Inevitably this meant no digging, for a while at least.

By lunchtime there had been a considerable improvement at the Ness but the diggers, many of whom stay in Kirkwall, were astonished that there was activity at all, as Kirkwall was horribly afflicted by torrential downpours for the whole morning.

As we have always said, the weather in Orkney in incredibly local, and for once we were on its good side (relatively).

The elaborate eastern entrance to Structure Twelve continues to fascinate.

Working on the northern side of the entrance Christine has uncovered a cup-marked stone which mirrors the one discovered on the other side. We have, of course, no obvious interpretation what the cup-marked stones signify but it is interesting to find them in such crucial positions.

The southern cupmarked stone at Structure Twelve’s eastern entrance. (Sigurd Towrie)
The incredibly deep cupmark on a stone from the northern section of the Structure Twelve eastern entrance passage/cell. (Sigurd Towrie)

The fill of the robber cut in that area continues to produce a concentration of fairly well preserved animal bone while further east and in the adjacent passage/cell there is still more bone.

Toiling there, Sigurd has reached the base of a deliberately placed large blocking orthostat but there is no great depth to it, as everyone had hoped.

What we seem to have is blocking stones upon blocking stones creating a sequence of alcove like structures around the east entrance – but with no apparent end in sight.

Presumably, there must be a bottom to it all and the original entrance configuration revealed, but will we live long enough?

It was not just the diggers who were busy on site today. Jim Bright’s laptop is pictured piecing together one of his incredible 3D models of Structure Twenty-Seven in Trench T. (Jo Bourne)

Just before close of business a large prone stone was removed from the northern section of the passageway/cell and found to feature what is probably the deepest cupmark found so far on site. It really is quite impressive.

In Structure Ten, work continues on the floor deposits at the north end and to the east of the hearth.

Charlie is still unpicking the sequence of foundation deposits and is almost ready to start removing the pottery which we noticed in that area a year ago. It couldn’t be removed then because it would have been out of sequence but, as it probably dates to around the time of the partial rebuild of the structure, it is of considerable interest. We will tell you what we find.

One of the most interesting events lately took place off site.

Today marked the welcome return of Ness stalwart Andy Boyar, who is pictured at work in Trench T. (Jo Bourne)

Christine, our Edinburgh stalwart, was having her lunch on the beach at Rackwick, on the island of Hoy, at the weekend when she noticed around her several olivine basalt stones. That is the same rock as the macehead we recovered on site last week.

Could this be where the macehead rock came from, or might there be more glacial erratics nearer the Ness, or could it have originated to the east, in Deerness, where similar stone has been previously noted?

Once the weather finally improved this afternoon, Lucy continued sampling the floor deposits inside Structure Ten. (Jo Bourne)

In Trench T, the extensions on either side are being excavated as rapidly as the circumstances allow. These circumstances include more of the pesky pits which have bedevilled work here in the past.

Trench supervisor Cristina pointed out to site director Nick the areas where the demolition level is interleaved by midden deposits. These deposits contain a high concentration of very degraded animal bone, indeed sometimes it is little more than a smear on the rocks.

We have hopes that our animal bone specialist, Dr Ingrid Mainland, will be able to visit and perhaps attempt an identification of the bone. We appreciate that this will be extremely difficult but Ingrid will do her best.

A site the size of the Ness requires many people for its smooth running and today we want to single out our meeters and greeters, who welcome visitors, help them park, encourage them to Sponsor-a-Square and generally make their visits as smooth as possible.

They are all volunteers who give up their summer to help us and we appreciate their work so much. We also want to thank Angela and Moira who run the site shop, which makes such a crucial input to our Ness coffers.

We will be back tomorrow.

Who knows, we may even be dry.