Dig Diary – Monday, July 8, 2019

Day Six

Bathed in sunshine – a busy day on site. (Jo Bourne)

Back to its happy self

What a difference a weekend makes. On Friday of last week we were soaked, chilled to the bone and generally emitting extreme misery. Today we have bright skies, strong sunlight and a gentle breeze.

Is everyone happy? Not a bit of it.

Excavation under way today in Structure Eight. (Jo Bourne)

Site director Nick reports serious complaints from the trenches, firstly of a personal nature (it’s too hot), and then professional (the strong sunlight is bleaching out colour from the soil, removing the subtle colour changes which indicate contexts).

Add to this the torment of flies and midges. Wet weather followed by warmth brings them out in multitudes and no amount of swatting and cursing will persuade them to go elsewhere.

All that aside, the Ness is back to its happy self.

Over in Trench T. (Sigurd Towrie)

Another group of volunteers arrived this morning, were inducted into the mysteries of health and safety, given an intro to the Ness specific finds procedures and its geology, and then assigned to various trenches where they are busy cleaning surfaces and the floors in Structures Eight, Ten and Twelve ready for the start of serious excavation tomorrow.

Next week there will be even more with the arrival of the Willamette University and University of the Highlands and Islands field school students.

Structure Twenty-Seven is the focus of attention in Trench T. (Jo Bourne)

Sarah’s arrival on site today meant the covers from the interior of Structure Ten could be removed and work begin. (Jo Bourne)

The real joy of today is the return of the old lags, the experienced trench supervisors who have stuck with the Ness through thick and thin (and wet) and who have an unrivalled knowledge of their own structures and disciplines.

These paragons of archaeological virtue are Sarah, Jim, Cristina, Jo, Alice, Paul and Alette and you will be hearing much more of them in the weeks ahead.

Nick met with most of them this morning to hammer out strategies. It is fair to say that archaeologists are strong-minded people and it is normal for a frank and fair exchange of views to take place at such meetings.

Pot magnet Travis at work in Structure Twenty-Six. (Jo Bourne)

Each of the structures requires a slightly different approach to cope with its particular idiosyncrasies. As an example, Nick and Jim agree that certain areas of Structure Twelve, where there has been mass dumping of material in the Neolithic, require less stringent sampling.

Surprisingly, no dissent was reported from the gathering so we can expect work at the Ness to power ahead with everyone in happy unanimity.

As we are at a very early stage there have been very few finds thus far. Indeed the finds hut looks uncannily clean and tidy.

Excavating the interior and exterior of Structure Five in Trench J. (Sigurd Towrie)

However Travis, the pottery magnet, has upheld his reputation by unearthing some nice pottery this morning, including one sherd with several pellets decorating the exterior.

In Structure 12 what seems to be a shell fragment with a hole has appeared and we have no doubt that much more will emerge from tomorrow.

The only problem is the weather.

The latest forecast suggest that tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday may not be terribly nice. At the moment we simply don’t care.

The site is up and running, everyone is in a good mood and no amount of drenching will deter us.

That’s what we are saying at the moment. Check us out tomorrow for the truth.

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