Dig Diary – Monday, July 25, 2011
Already the start of week two – how the time flies when enjoying oneself!
The site already seems transformed from last Monday, when it was first uncovered.
With more of the walls exposed, the internal plan of Structure Ten is more refined and making more sense and the full extent of Structure Eight is realised and the later, oval stone, structure within Structure One removed – quite a week!
There were various new arrivals on site this morning, including eleven students from Willamette University, in Oregon, USA, led by Professor Scott Pike.
All of the students are doing a field component to their degree, although this is the first time that any of them will have seen archaeology as complex, or compelling, as the Ness of Brodgar.
Professor Pike had been looking for a location for a field school for his students, a couple of years ago, and had initially chosen a site in Italy which, unfortunately, fell through.
He was introduced to Nick Card, while Nick was lecturing in the USA, and the idea of using the Ness as a teaching site for Willamette was hatched.
The students were quickly set to work, trowelling back the stretch of ground next to Structure Twelve, which was machined last week as an extension to the structure. The good news is that their work had instant results.
By the end of the day, they had uncovered a line of walling, thus establishing that the exterior wall of Structure Twelve, in the southern corner, was intact and not robbed out, as had been feared. Great news, and another indication that Structure Twelve is certain to be a significant new addition to the site.
There are high hopes that this important connection between Orkney College UHI archaeology department and Willamette will continue, and even develop further in the future, to the benefit of both educational bodies.
Professor Pike also brought with him a portable XRF (X-ray fluorescence spectrometer)-machine to examine the chemical composition of many of the deposits on site. More of this in later entries.
Another visitor to site was Tony Sherrat, a professional historical re-enacter.
Tony has specialized in the Iron Age and viking periods in the past, but he set up his tent on the Ness with a selection of recreated artefacts from the Neolithic.
These included a variety of hunting tools, with flint points; arrows with flights fastened on with sinew; and a large selection of whalebone and antler artefacts.
Intriguingly, his seat is made from a huge whalebone vertebra, fashioned into a comfortable form which, incidentally, resembles a prime example of modern, fashionable furniture.
Tony will not be here all the time, but his presence today enlivened the site atmosphere and was very popular with the usual large crowds of visitors.
But back to the archaeology…
Probably the most interesting find today was a piece of incised and pecked stone from Structure Ten (picture here).
This single example seems to exhibit a sequence for these designs with very fine incised designs being overlain by a more deeply and well-defined pattern, with pecked cup designs added later.
This find was rivaled by a very large piece of decorated Grooved Ware pottery from Structure Twelve – like so much of the pottery, very beautiful to look at but not well fired, making the recovery of such pot a difficult task.
From the Trenches
Name: Sian Jones
Occupation: Student at UHI, doing environment and heritage studies
Reason for Being on Site: Archaeology is a large part of my degree learning and I felt it was necessary to learn not just theory but practical work.
I do not wish to be an archaeologist but a teacher, and strongly believe that students in 6th form, who wish to do any form of archaeology within the UHI, should have a foundation within the school. I am here, therefore, so I will be able to teach on a practical level in school.
During my time on site. I have learned a number of new skills, from trowelling to surveying and finds processing…all very exciting.
I have also found a number of grooved stones, although we are unsure if these are natural or man made; a large area of pot which is still to be excavated, and what is believed to be a vertebral bone from a large mammal. Though this is important, I found that I am more interested in the stone work, especially the painted and coloured stone areas.
Although I have done a number of different things within the site, the best part, for me, has been the other excavators.
There is a great community on site and as a group we have all become friends, to the point that over the weekend we all toured Orkney to other archaeological sites and continued the day by having tea and a beer to celebrate the Stromness Shopping Week.
I am a very sociable person, so to be able to be on site with all the other guys and have such a great time is a real bonus and has increased my enjoyment of my experience here.
Overall the experience for me has been really worthwhile, and I hope that it will help me in my further career within teaching, and in my degree at present. Also, I have made friendships that will hopefully continue.