Dig Diary – Second step-like feature built into the ‘Great Wall of Brodgar’

Another set of steps built in the the 'Great Wall of Brodgar'? (Jo Bourne)

Another set of steps built in the the ‘Great Wall of Brodgar’? (Jo Bourne)

Day Twenty-One
Monday, August 1, 2022

Some of our diggers have worked in hot countries, which is just as well as the Ness today had a very close resemblance to the Libyan desert.

Not just in the temperature, which really behaved in a most unreasonable manner, but also in the rock-hard nature of the surfaces being excavated.

This is not a laughing matter. Anyone who has tried to dig compacted and arid surfaces knows exactly the toll it will take on you fingers and wrists, not to mention your sanity.

Despite all this, a new group of diggers turned up this morning, and they included old friends from past years, such as Giles and Lucy.

Visitors have also continued to flood on site. Sunday’s Open Day brought in around a thousand people and the latest count today must have been well over five hundred.

We hope they enjoyed the archaeology, which continues to fascinate us all.

Trench J is particularly busy.

The floor deposits in the northern half of Structure Five are gradually being worked on and in the southern end Fran and Colin have removed the last robber debris from the inner wall face on the east side of the original building. This has revealed a yellow clay floor, but it is still not clear yet whether it is primary or secondary.

A second 'step' feature emerges from the inner wall face of the 'Great Wall of Brodgar'.

A second ‘step’ feature emerges from the inner wall face of the ‘Great Wall of Brodgar’.

UHI Archaeology Institute students worked on more of the inner face of the northern boundary wall – the “Great Wall of Brodgar” – and uncovered another substantial step-like feature which jut out from the wall but which is also built into the wall face.

The first example of these “built-in steps” was found a short distance to the north-east of the new one. What could they be? Actual steps?

The first of the step-like features encountered tied into the 'Great Wall of Brodgar'. (Sigurd Towrie)

The first of the step-like features encountered tied into the ‘Great Wall of Brodgar’. (Sigurd Towrie)

The first of the three secondary-phases orthostats is removed from the building. (Ole Thoenies)

The first of the three secondary-phases orthostats is lifted ready for removal. (Ole Thoenies)

In Structure One, supervisor Andy and some sturdy diggers removed the eastern-most orthostat of the three running across the bulding’s interior. The other two orthostats are also almost ready for removal and one of them has some fine surface decoration.

Ray, Giles, Kevin and Colin remove the lifted orthostat from Structure One. (Ole Thoenies)

Ray, Giles, Kevin and Colin remove the lifted orthostat from Structure One. (Ole Thoenies)

In Structures Eight and Ten there was much cleaning and prettifying as Professor Scott Pike prepared to launch his drone to take some incredibly detailed images of the structures.

Travis had finished his work with another one of the Structure Ten orthostats, leaning against the north internal wall of Structure Ten, and has now removed it entirely.

Structure Eight ready for its photography session. Note the curved wall of its predecessor, Structure Seventeen, running across the interior, adjacent to the paved area that separated it from Eighteen. (Jo Bourne)

Structure Eight ready for its photography session. Note the curved wall of its predecessor, Structure Seventeen, running across the interior, adjacent to the paved area that separated it from Eighteen. (Jo Bourne)

To say Trench T was busy is an understatement. Site director Nick sent over more reinforcements this morning and the extraordinary Structure Twenty-Seven is now emerging rapidly.

The upper silty clay level of the building is being removed and more of the sterile yellow clay layer is being revealed. It is still uncertain whether this is a clay floor or a clay sealing layer. If it is a sealing layer the question as to what it is sealing is of huge importance.

For some reason the surfaces in Structure Twenty-Seven appear particularly hard in the sun and there is now an occasional glimpse of a mattock being wielded with extreme care and delicacy.

Great progress in Structure Twenty-Seven. (Jo Bourne)

Great progress in Structure Twenty-Seven. (Jo Bourne)

To the north-east of the building more robber debris and midden is being taken out to show, not just the very large slabs which cover the drain on the exterior of Twenty-Seven, but most importantly, the fact that the drain cover slabs are part of the building’s step foundation.

This confirms that the drain is a primary feature of the structure and must surely give some indication of the levels of the interior floors.

Structure Twenty-Seven's north-eastern drain. (Jo Bourne)

Structure Twenty-Seven’s north-eastern drain. (Jo Bourne)

The surviving fragment of Structure Twenty-Seven's northern prone orthostat, which was robbed out in prehistory. (Jo Bourne)

The surviving fragment of Structure Twenty-Seven’s northern prone orthostat, which was robbed out in prehistory. (Jo Bourne)

On the exterior, the removal of debris is uncovering more of the carefully constructed wall core, and also further elements of the beautifully finished exterior wall, which can now be seen to extend to several courses of stone.

Trench T also turned up an unusual sherd of decorated Grooved Ware. It is segmented and looks like a larger piece of segmented pot recovered a few years ago, which has been christened the “Devil’s Claw”. We will not be so fanciful with this sherd, which is probably a large, and carefully made, applied cordon.

Pottery sherd from Trench T. (Jo Bourne)

Pottery sherd from Trench T. (Jo Bourne)

Yet another camera crew visited us today, this time from a channel called History Hits.

We will now hit the showers and see you all tomorrow.

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