Dig Diary – Monday, July 21, 2014

Day Six

Almost up to full strength, the team takes a break from the tropical temperature.

Almost up to full strength, the team takes a break from the tropical temperature.

Welcoming the Willamettes

Warm welcomes this morning to the students from Willamette University, Oregon, who have joined us for another year with their Professor, Scott Pike.

Scott is a veteran of the Ness and his X-Ray Fluorescence analyses of floors and other material at the site have added hugely to the understanding of what went on here in the later Neolithic.

Several of the Willamette students are also returnees.

Clearly, their visit last year was a success and their willingness to work hard is a tribute to their determination, even though their tour of Orkney yesterday with site director Nick was conducted in a steady and depressing drizzle.

There were no problems with the weather today. It started off warm and humid and stayed that way. Michael Olsson, from Sydney, was even down to just one layer of clothing in the afternoon.

Another hive of activity in Structure Fourteen.

Another hive of activity in Structure Fourteen.

In Structure Fourteen, Hugo and his team continued to investigate the huge blocks of stone which were revealed under the midden deposit last week.

By close of play of Friday, there was speculation that they might form part of an earlier structure but further examination today showed them to be just large chunks of rubble, as Karen reveals below.

When they were removed the team found that they had reached natural geology, some 1.31 metres under the current ground surface.

Interestingly, Hugo points out that this is just 20cm lower than the natural surface outside Structure One, re-affirming the remarkable depth of archaeology across the middle section of the site.

Excavation resumes in the main central midden area.

Excavation resumes in the main central midden area.

In the north-west niche, Woody and Martha are removing occupation deposits, but it is difficult work due to the friable nature of the deposits, which are difficult to distinguish, one from the other.

Duncan and David are also planning the drain they discovered in the north-east corner last week.

There will be more anticipation in Structure Fourteen tomorrow as work will begin on removing the yellow floor deposits.

These are famous for Jo’s discovery in 2012 of a beautiful polished stone axe. She is back this year, no doubt keeping a close eye on her former hunting ground.

Work also continued on dismantling the two midden baulks in the central midden.

Scott is taking XRF readings from the area, but there are small walls in the way, which seem to respect this central area and the standing stone which is placed in the middle of it. Do these walls represent a new structure, which could be Structure Twenty-Five, or do they represent an opposing structure to Structure One, just across the way? This will still have to be argued over.

The Willamettes arrive from the USA and are straight into the HS induction.

The Willamettes arrive from the USA and are straight into the HS induction.

We are happy to announce that the viewing platform will be open from Tuesday morning. It has been plagued with paperwork.

We still have three tours per day, which should give plenty of time for anyone who wants to enjoy the view from the top.

Last but not least, a word of thanks to Kenny Ritch, of VisitOrkney, who supplied us with a substantial number of pens for use in the exhibition trailer.  That’s all until tomorrow.

From the Trenches


Karen Kennedy

My name is Karen Kennedy.

I am just completing third year of the BA(Hons) in Archaeology at UHI based in the Highland Theological College in Dingwall, near Inverness.

Last year, I changed from the Scottish Cultural Studies course and can honestly say this is the best decision I have made. I am having the best time and really enjoying studying.

I am here at the Ness to do my excavation module, which I chose as the site is of such importance, not only in Orkney and Scotland but worldwide. I may also never get the opportunity of digging here again.

I’m loving the experience and all the different people I’m getting to meet and we’ve also been really lucky with the Orkney weather, although this may change at any time.

I’m also lucky enough to be sharing the experience with my husband, Duncan, who is studying the degree part-time.  By coincidence, it is also our eighth anniversary today.   It’s really great to have someone to talk to about what we’ve discovered and learnt during the day.

Over the past few days, I have been working in Trench P, just outside Structure Fourteen, where we have gone down several layers and found some intriguing large stones; these were lifted today and after going down another few centimetres we finally found the natural geology.

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