Dig Diary – Probing the ‘mega-drain’ while more of Structure Eighteen is revealed
Monday, July 18, 2022
Orkney’s wildlife gave a vanload of our diggers a wonderful start to the day. As they drove along the road just south of the Ness on their way to work, an otter was spotted in Stenness Loch just opposite the Stones of Stenness.
Supervisor Paul pulled the van over to the side but, as is usual with Orkney otters, they have a hyper-developed sense for the presence of cameras, (the exception being site director Nick who has some amazing otter pics).
Anyway, this morning’s otter took fright and disappeared, but it was a lovely start to an interesting day.
More of the wall lines of Structure Eighteen have appeared, together with signs of internal furniture and robbed-out orthostats.
The removal of more of the levelling layer should give Jo and her team a good idea of almost all of Eighteen’s layout.
This small, earlier building can now be identified as having a pair of opposed piers and corner buttresses, much the same as Structure Seventeen, which lies under the southern end of Structure Eight. It is likely that both Structures Seventeen and Eighteen can be dated to, very roughly, around 3200BC and thus preceding the later larger buildings with their multiple piers.
Over in the finds hut there is something of a lack of finds to process, partly due to the amount of finnicky sampling which is taking place on site.
Finds supervisor Anne, with her usual creativity, has the team busily unpacking and re-boxing the pottery which was recovered from the site in the early days of excavation. At that time a lack of money to buy the expensive museum boxes which hold the finds meant that many bags of pottery sherds had to be packed in double layers. This is less than ideal but the imminent arrival of new boxes means that the valuable ceramics can be repacked with extra space around each bag.
A reminder though, that although the flow of finds from the trenches might be slower than usual this season, a selection of some of our finest can be viewed at the Maeshowe visitor centre, as part of our summer exhibition.
And talking of a lack of money, if you want to help support the dig, our sponsor-a-find campaign is still running. If you can help with that, by making a donation or popping to the on-site (or online) shop during your visit, we’ll be eternally grateful.
The bulk of the Ness of Brodgar excavation funds come from public support – we don’t get huge excavation grants from official bodies, so, as we are so fond of say, every penny helps.
Today it was the turn of site director Nick to disappear. And once again a drain was involved.
The major development today was the arrival of Jim MIddlemas, plumber, builder and the solver of problems on site relating to such things as display cabinets, outside seats and everything which makes our job easier.
Today, Jim had brought his new endoscope, a cunning device designed to see down modern drains, but also useful for ancient ones.
He and Nick hunkered down to insert the flexible rods with lights and high-definition camera down the drain to see what they could see (hence Nick’s disappearance).
The endoscope could penetrate about six feet but quantities of stone collapse and silt made it difficult to see anything.
The drain does appear to be, just that, a drain as it has been capped with stone slabs, although supervisor Alice made the sensible suggestion that it could still be outside walls of two buildings close together – a Skara Brae style passage?
For the moment we’ll settle for it being a drain, although the result of the endoscope investigation is the revival of the plan to send down a small child with a torch.
Over in Trench T, the students from Willamette University, Oregon, are continuing with their excellent work removing some of the midden and robbing debris overlying Structure Twenty-Seven and revealing more of the long orthostats plus, in places, the added bonus of in-situ lower courses of the original wall.
Eva and Katharine have carefully uncovered a large spread of pottery and are now defining its edges ready for photographs and eventual removal.
In Structure Ten, Travis is examining the slots where orthostats were removed from the primary floor, and, outside Structure One, Sigurd’s section has established that the construction of Structure Twenty-One is slightly later than that of Structure One. He can now emerge from his drain and move on to the next task.
As will we. Until tomorrow.