Dig Diary – Monday, July 1, 2019

Day One

The covers start to come off Trench P.

Rain, gales..oh my!

Under leaden skies! Site director Nick delivers the site induction talk this morning.

We’re back!

It hardly seems like ten months since we last saw the wonderful structures at the Ness of Brodgar in all their glory.

In fact, our final glimpse last year came as everything was covered over in black plastic sheets held down by many hundreds of tyres, rocks and sand-bags as protection from the Orkney winter.

Today, those tyres and sheets are being removed and the Ness is able to breathe in the open air once more.

The back-breaking task of removing hundreds of tyres complete, work begins mopping up the standing water on top of the protective coverings of Trench T.

Unfortunately, the open air is very wet indeed. Today has not been pleasant, as a brisk northerly wind has buffeted our intrepid team and interspersed the gusts with driving rain.

It is such a contrast to this time last year, when the sun shone all day and the team dripped with perspiration. Which is worse, driving rain or sweltering sun?

Whatever the challenge, our team of volunteers, students and professional archaeologists from far and wide have done a magnificent job today.

There are only around 60 of them and the job of removing the tyres and plastic is both dirty and arduous, but most of the trenches are already uncovered and the walls of the structures are now visible.

Site director Nick is delighted with progress and grateful for the hard work of everyone on site. Tomorrow should see the last of the covers removed and the work of tidying and cleaning the structures commenced.

The numbers of excavators will also increase, with around 70 next week, eventually reaching the full complement of about 100 diggers.

Pete removing water from the Trench P coverings.

By Wednesday, everything will be in full swing with excavation starting in most areas.

Our on-site shop, manned by the good folk from Orkney Archaeology Society, will be open for business; our viewing platform will be built and the free tours for visitors will in operation at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. With luck our delayed mobile cabins will also have arrived to house the finds team, the on-site artists and any team members who might need some respite from the weather.

A water-bucket chain forming above Structure One to remove the lying water from the covers.

The focus of it all, of course, is the magnificent archaeology represented by remarkable upstanding stone structures built here over a millennium from around 3200BC to around 2300BC.

In many ways the Ness is changing the way we think about the Neolithic period as we see evidence of sophisticated building techniques, magnificent decoration on stones and pottery and unexpected technological advances.

It is all very exciting and our daily diary will bring you all the news as it happens over the two months of the excavation.

See you tomorrow.