Dig Diary – Monday, July 10, 2017

Day Six

Yet another new structure . . .

Final recording of the later wall in Structure One, before its removal starts.

What a lovely way to start the week. Claire and her team are digging today in an extension to the side of Structure Twelve and possibly over Structure Twenty-Six (don’t worry about the numbers – they don’t make sense to us either).

The end wall of Structure Thirty is gradually revealed and no, we won’t be extending the trench any further.

She has discovered a handsome wall, beside which Mike found a nice pot last week reminiscent of some at Durrington Walls.

And for all those who think that is too far away geographically, just remember that Grooved Ware probably started in Orkney and travelled south to places like, yes, Durrington Walls.

Anyway, the wall was supposed to be heading in the direction of Structure Twelve, but when did any Ness wall do the expected?

Instead it has turned away and now appears to be running more or less parallel to Structure Twelve’s side wall. In other words, it is yet another new structure.

Site director Nick has rummaged through the geophysics and has detected it on an earlier plan and has named it Structure Thirty.

Torstein and his internally decorated pot from Trench T.

Where it will go exactly and what it might contain remains a mystery, at least today, but there is no doubt that it will be later than Structure Twenty-Six, whose position and relationship with other buildings will just have to wait.

Two other nice pot sherds have turned up, one being a scalloped rim from the machining of the extension area at Trench T and, from a similar area, although securely contexted, a rim with a perfect circular impression with single incised lines running from it around the interior of the pot rim.

In Structure Eight, the covers have been finally removed from the floors ready for sampling of the floor deposits under the guidance of structure supervisor, Dr Catriona Gibson.

In Structure One, the curving wall of Phase Two, which is soon to be removed, was being planned and fully recorded prior to removal.

Structure Twelve’s floors are given a spring clean.

Jim Baxter, one of our UHI Masters students will also make a 3D image of the wall, and of other structural elements on site so that we can be sure that no detail of the soon-to-be removed wall will be missed.

The first batch of our UHI students arrived this morning, and with them came some of the senior supervisors who will make sense of proceedings, together with Nick, in the weeks to come.

These included Dr Jo McKenzie, who will be taking tiny midden samples for floor analysis, Jim Rylatt who will be supervising Structure Twelve, Sarah Cobain (with new sun hat—it won’t stay clean for long) who will supervise Structure Ten, Jo Bourne, who designed our magnificent new guidebook and who will be in Structure Eight, and Megan, who will keep Nick in order.

Sarah and her new, brilliant-white sunhat.

We were also delighted to see Professor Scott Pike, presently on holiday but who will come to site in a week with his Willamette University (Oregon) students. 

Lastly, but by no means least, we welcomed Dr Gerry McDonnell, a metallurgy and slag expert who has been visiting the Swandro excavations, in Rousay.

Absolutely lastly, we promise a real treat for you tomorrow.

We bet you never thought we would be writing about the new Dubai fish market in an archaeology diary, but we will. Don’t miss it.

From the Trenches

I can’t believe that we are starting the second week of the excavation, already we have had a week of tyre rolling, tarpaulin wrestling and general site preparation.

Full steam ahead in Trench T with the addition of a cohort of UHI students.

All good fun and essential groundwork before the start of the excavation this week where our numbers will swell as we are joined by more fellow excavators. 

My name is Sandra Claggett I am a BA graduate from Birkbeck, University of London, where I have been running the Birkbeck Archaeology Society for several years.

I joined the Ness of Brodgar excavation last Monday, after travelling here from excavating Gorham’s and Vanguard cave in Gibraltar, where we were looking for evidence of Neanderthal occupation. A totally different site and excavation experience.

I have heard since leaving, that colleagues have found a tooth from a Neanderthal child. Exciting stuff, but I am glad to have progressed forward in history from the Palaeolithic to the mainly Neolithic at the Ness. I was surprised to get sunburnt while excavating at the Ness, which I avoided in Gibraltar! 

All the covers removed from Structure Eight to ready the floors for the “hamster holes” of micro morphologist Jo McKenzie.

I love Orkney, this is my fourth visit although I have not excavated here before and it is great to be a part of the excavation team.

Orkney really is a treasure trove for prehistorians. There are so many amazing sites to visit and comprehend. I am staying here with some fellow Birkbeckers in an apartment about 30 seconds from the mini bus pick up point in Kirkwall to the excavation. How lucky is that!

We have already sampled the joys of nightlife in Kirkwall including the infamous Bothy bar, a popular hangout for thirsty archaeologists.

On Sunday, I visited Rousay and some of the chambered tombs, cairns and long barrows. A great place, although we discovered that the map scale wasn’t especially accurate and some fast walking back to the last ferry was involved! Meanwhile there was a heatwave, I was told, in Kirkwall, well, sunshine and no rain anyway, but we were creating our own heat wave with the fast pace on Rousay. 

Tomorrow, I return to site along with my trusty leaf trowel, every archaeologist’s friend, no more trowelling through the dirt with my regular trowel. You really can leaf through a lot of soil with it and get into those really interesting small nooks and crannies. I wonder what exciting finds await discovery.

We have had pottery, a stone scraper and lots of bone from Trench T, where I am based. Trench T is a fascinating trench and I can’t wait to get back to it. So I say my goodbyes for this blog. 

Happy digging. 

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