Dig Diary – Rubble area produces our first decorated stone of 2022
Friday, July 15, 2022
We have a new decorated stone!
It may be Friday and it may be (somewhat unbelievably) the end of the second week of excavation, but the Ness continues to deliver up fascinating information and artefacts.
The stone was discovered by Alice and Alette, who are working on rubble next to the remains of Structure Thirty-Four.
It is decorated with incised chevrons and looks very much a classic Ness decorated stone.
They have also half-sectioned (excavated only half) the orthostatic boxes within Structure Thirty-Four.
These are particularly interesting because they have either stone or clay bases. Does this suggest that they were used for different purposes, depending on their base?
Quite possibly. But Alice and Alette have taken samples from the material within the boxes which will be analysed and hopefully supply answers. Trench J supervisor Paul has commented on the similarity between them and experimental archaeology stone settings used for firing pottery. Watch this space.
We went looking for Sigurd this afternoon, known to be working in the vicinity of Structure One.
He is a notable figure at the Ness and not easy to miss, but today he was invisible.
He was identified only by his hat which was laid on the back of his head. The rest of him was prone and stretched out flat with his hands busy on another half-section.
He is investigating a drain which runs from the north-west recess of Structure One in the quest to establish whether One and Structure Twenty-One are contemporary.
Unfortunately, there seems to have been more than one rebuild of the Structure One wall and this is complicating his excavation, although it is possible that these features may relate to the inserted interior secondary wall which shortened the building considerably.
Inside Structure One, Andy and her team are clarifying and removing the last of the primary occupation layers above the primary yellow clay floor. This means that the secondary hearth, which has been with us for some years, will have to be removed in order to bring the whole of the interior into phase.
Also ready for removal are three orthostats which projected from the inner face of the later phase curving inserted wall, which was removed a few years ago.
Over in Structure Eight, Jack was removing the last vestiges of the building’s floors in the north-eastern side recess when he came across, as expected, a levelling layer for the construction of the building and one of the corner buttresses of Structure Eighteen – one of the predecessors of Eight and which lies beneath it.
We now have all four buttresses of this smaller building, which lies almost at a right-angle over the northern end of Structure Eight, and we can now look for an entrance area. This confirms the almost identical layouts of Structures Seventeen and Eighteen, both under Structure Eight.
In Structure Ten, work is continuing on the north and south sides of the primary central chamber to remove the last of the occupation layers.
Gregor is working in the area of robbed-out orthostats in the north-western corner but it now seems that there were potentially two phases of robbing. One particular area is now seen to be potentially the location of a wooden support, which, in turn, may be related to the beginning of Ten’s collapse.
At the south side of Ten, Mark and Jan are working on the removal of orthostats which are up against the inner wall face (now robbed out).
These relate to the primary use of the building but are not structural elements. Rather, they are just leaning up against the wall face, similar to ones leaning against the opposite wall.
In Trench T, the Willamettes have settled in well around Structure Twenty-Seven and are now working vigorously to remove robbing debris still obscuring parts of the long, prone stones which make up part of the remarkable architecture of this enigmatic building.
In the interior another sondage has been made at right angles to the one which Charlie has been digging this week.
These narrow slot trenches allow us to develop a strategy for when we are ready to excavate the whole of the interior and reveal the floors
Structure Twenty-Seven still presents many problems for site director Nick and the team. The occupation layer of the building has been sealed, not by the tipping of midden material, but by a process of natural silting which took place after it was abandoned but before the masses of midden were deposited.
This presumably is the result of hill wash or even by natural ponding, which in itself suggests that the building was left unroofed and open to the elements when it went out of use and initially robbed.
Only later was midden deposited over it in huge quantities.
This is unlike any other building at the Ness, although Nick is sure an answer will be found in time.
In Trench J, the students from the UHI Archaeology Institute continued to excavate the small extension to the north-west of Structure Five. They are discovering late hearths and more of the inner face of the “Great Wall of Brodgar”.
Meanwhile, the small curving wall which lies over Structure Five and which is part of Structure Thirty-Two is now being removed after being recorded from every possible angle. It has also been modelled in 3d by Trench J’s supervisor, Paul Durdin.
Now for a nice weekend of rest and we’ll see you on Monday.