Dig Diary – new wall section adds to the puzzle of Trench T
Thursday, July 28, 2022
Because our open day is on Sunday, the excavation team have been given tomorrow off and the site is closed to visitors.
We re-open at 10.30am on Sunday for a day of site tours and activities – at the Ness and in the Stenness school.
We’ll post more details of this tomorrow.
Back to today and it has been busy across the site. As the diggers toiled away in the trenches, hundreds of visitors took the chance to view the Ness is glorious sunshine.
Typically, however, the wind is never far away in Orkney but even it couldn’t dampen spirits. That said, it was definitely a group of weary diggers who set off home at close of play – all undoubtedly relishing the prospect of two days to rest and recover.
The enigmatic Trench T continued to throw up surprises today with another section of walling emerging from the south-eastern trench edge.
This walling, although nowhere near the quality of the masonry in Structure Twenty-Seven, is quite well-built and sits on top of the robbed out remains of Twenty-Seven.
At present we think it, and other wall sections in the area, may relate to the robbing of stone from Twenty-Seven after it had been abandoned, partially dismantled and covered in midden.
It suggests the stone-robbing was not necessarily a spur of the moment thing, but perhaps a co-ordinated operation, with revetment walls inserted into the midden to hold it back while the robbers dug down in search of the stones they were after.
One thing’s for sure. Site director Nick has today categorically dismissed the idea of extending the trench again to explore them further.
Meanwhile, in Structure Eight we’re seeing more and more of the building’s predecessors.
As regular readers (and visitors to the Ness site) will know, Eight (c3100BC) is built on top of two earlier buildings, Seventeen and Eighteen (c3200BC). In Eight’s northern half, the wall of Eighteen has already been revealed cutting across its interior.
Now the covers from the southern half of Structure Eight have been removed to allow Jo and her team to clean the area and clarify features that might have to be removed to expose the levelling layer and floor of Seventeen.
One of Seventeen’s walls can already be seen running through Eight, adjacent to a spread of rubble.
This area is being planned by Kevin before the rubble can be removed to reveal an area of paving between Structures Seventeen and Eighteen.
Excavation of the north-western extension to Trench J continued today, with parts of the underlying northern boundary wall – the “Great Wall of Brodgar” – now visible.
A large spread of animal bone was uncovered and excavated by Pippa in this area. Bone and organic material does not survive well in the acidic soils around the Ness, but these were not only large, but reasonably well-preserved.
Meanwhile, in Structure Ten, what appears to be a multi-hollow cobble was recovered by Jan and Mark. The artefact was found in a construction slot relating to a series of orthostats that ran parallel to the building’s original southern wall face.
Travis and Michaela continued to work in the northern corner of the central chamber – the area where Julia was working earlier in the season. Removing more rubble and wall-lines they have revealed deposits in the floors beneath.
Kaehlin continued in the west of the chamber, excavating the dresser-like feature added in the building’s second phase.
A few years ago we investigated the area around this paved recess but our efforts didn’t produce much. Kaehlin’s section has revealed a sequence of paving. What does this mean? We’ll have to wait and see.
Last but not least, orthostats were the name of the game in Structure One today. And these three orthostats are perhaps the most noticeable to anyone visiting the Ness of Brodgar site.
The trio were inserted into the floor (and a hearth) and run across the middle of the building. They relate to One’s second-phase remodelling, when a large, curved wall was inserted across middle. The orthostats were keyed into this wall, forming a series of cells at the northern end of the reduced-in-size building.
We mentioned previously that Ellen has been investigating the westernmost orthostat. She was joined today by Jenna, who has left the floor deposits behind and is now working around the base of the north-eastern orthostat.
Jenna’s orthostat seems much more straightforward than Ellen’s and features a clear construction cut and packing around the base of the stone.
Before signing off, the Ness team would like to wish Gary a very happy birthday.
Gary, a member of the finds team, and a postgraduate student of the UHI Archaeology Institute, hails from the USA but has now made Orkney his home. America’s loss is our gain.
Although Gary had tried to keep his birthday quiet, the news leaked and at lunchtime we were all treated to cake, and Gary to a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.
You meet many folk throughout your life, a few of whom are just downright good people. Gary falls into that category and your diary writer will most definitely be raising a glass (or two) to him tonight.
And with that folks, I’m going to sign off, apply the aftersun lotion and begin preparing for Sunday’s open day.
We hope to see you there.