Dig Diary – Monday, July 15, 2019

Day Eleven

Willamette students joined the Trench T team today – pictured sporting their new pink Dig It! 2019 T-shirts. (Sigurd Towrie)

Glorious sunshine greets new arrivals

The new arrivals from the UHI tackled the job of removing the earth from the top of the Trench X extension. (Jo Bourne)

Today is sunny, hot and one of those exceedingly rare Orkney days when the wind has decided to go elsewhere.

It has been the perfect introduction for the students from the University of the Highlands and Islands and from Willamette University in Oregon, USA who have arrived at the Ness for their field schools.

Some of the Willamettes went to buy waterproof gear in Kirkwall as this is expensive stuff to lug across the Atlantic. Wise advice from Colin prevented them from buying close fitting trousers and jackets which undoubtedly looked smart but which lacked the sheer bulk to allow movement, not to mention the three layers of clothing which may be needed in future weeks.

Working down through the southern extension to Trench T – one of two extensions inserted to investigate more of the layout of Structure Twenty-Seven. (Sigurd Towrie)

Back at the site, health and safety and induction preceded assignment to their individual trenches and soon they were all hard at work and accompanied by strict advice to stay hydrated and to plaster on the sun block.

Most of the Willamettes went to Trench T, where they are removing the last remnants of midden over the demolition areas.

This is important work for it will allow us access to some of the really interesting parts of the mysterious Structure Twenty-Seven, which lies beneath. Towards the end of the day, removal of the some of the last vestiges of midden within the structure has revealed more of one of the very large prone orthostats along its north-west inner wall. 

Kaehlin working on removing the contents of the hearth outside Structure Five (its curving wall is pictured behind her) in Trench J. (Sigurd Towrie)

Some of the midden has just fallen away into a void created by the robbing of the internal orthostatic cladding that this prone monolith helped to support. By tomorrow we may well reveal most of this prone slab.

In Trench J more volunteers were added to Paul’s team where they are working on the later hearths which rest on the infill of Structures Five and Thirty-Two. The only problem is that the excavation of one hearth leads almost immediately to the discovery of another.

…and preparing to photograph the result of her labours. (Jo Bourne)

Work on the areas outside the two entrances should also lead to a better understanding of the relationship between the blocked entrances and the later remodelling of Structure Five.

In Structure Ten, Sarah, Jo and their team are disentangling the primary floors and their relationship with the re-builds of the structure.

One of the problems with Structure Ten, quite apart from the fiendishly difficult archaeology, is the grid for the structure which is “out” by a little due to the malfunctioning of one of our Total Stations (surveying equipment), which is clearly in need of recalibration. Fortunately, the multi-talented Alette spotted the problem and with the help of Rick, from the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, will be able to rectify it.

Bethan with a flint pebble and worked stone found together in Structure Eight. (Jo Bourne)

There is relief beyond belief for Jim in Structure Twelve, where the sampling of the floors threatened to drag on long beyond his (or anyone else’s) natural lifespan.

Fortunately, Jim has confirmed that the layout of the large south-west recess suggests that it had raised, possibly wooden, platforms as has been suggested for recesses in other structures too.

Why? Because so many stones from Structure Twenty-Eight, which is underneath Structure Twelve, are poking through that they would have rendered the floor unusable, making a platform above them necessary. This means that the large area of floor present has nothing to do with Structure Twelve and is, instead, all related to the collapse of Structure Twenty-Eight and therefore can be left alone for the present.

Taking advantage of the warm weather – just some of the pot sherds recovered so far outside the finds hut drying in the summer sun. (Sigurd Towrie)

Elsewhere in Structure Twelve, Jim’s augmented team are now quadranting and removing the late ashy fill in the southern large hearth.

Nearby, Jim Bright has applied photogrammetry to the area between Structures Twelve and Twenty-Six and will make a three-dimensional model which will be enhanced by Professor Scott Pike’s new drone. This magnificent flying machine will also take infrared images across the site.

Site Director Nick was delighted to welcome on site Professor Steve Mithen of Reading University together with a colleague, Professor Ji, Professor of Neolithic Archaeology at one of China’s prestigious universities.

Professor Jin was impressed by the methodologies used here at the Ness and has said she would like to come and study them next year.

In the meantime the sun is still shining and we are all looking forward to baths, showers, restorative liquid and whatever tomorrow brings.

Until then…