Dig Diary — Sunday, August 19, 2012

Day Twenty-Five

A star attraction

Two of the carefully orchestrated tours.

We guess from the number of visitors we have attracted today that all of you reading this blog saw at first hand the excavations today!

After a less than promising start, with drizzle, the sun came out, as did the visitors to our Open Day – over 1,200 and still counting!

We thought that we did exceedingly well last year, but this year we have almost doubled last year’s figure – amazing the power of the media.

At times, we had up to four simultaneous tours under way to cope with demand.

Added to the visitor figures for the rest of this season we have now topped 7,000 over the last five weeks, which indeed makes the Ness one of the star attractions for tourists to Orkney.

The Open Day, however, did not detract from work as usual.

Final clean for Structure Fourteen

Final clean for Structure Fourteen.

Making the most of the sunshine, Structure Fourteen was cleaned for final photographs. Overhead shots from every angle, using Hugo’s pole, will provide an excellent record. Hugo also intends to stitch the shots together to produce a 3D image of this building.

In Structure Ten, Mike is hoping to emulate Jan and Claire’s discovery last week by revealing the original, internal south-west corner under the robbing debris. Will he discover another huge foundation slab? Watch this space . . .

Planning was also the order of the day as we race to finish final plans of several structures before starting to cover the site – let’s hope that the weather holds good for this less glamorous side of archaeology as we move several thousand sandbags back into place and cover the site with several layers of protective membrane before placing several thousand stones on the sheeting – any volunteers?

From the Trenches

Final planning in St 12 gets under way.

Final planning in Structure Twelve gets under way.

Hi there. My name is Simon Gray and I’ve travelled up from Ipswich, in Suffolk, where I’m told the weather today is as glorious as it is here in Stenness (eventually).

After spending the last three hundred and forty something days wishing I was here, I’m very pleased to be volunteering here at the Ness for my third year on the trot and am happy to be part of the team revealing and recording yet more of this incredible site.

After a nervy start to the morning, with a “light Orcadian shower” perplexing and frustrating us all, I am pleased to report the sun is well and truly out (as are my legs — I’m aiming for at least one wolf whistle by the end of the day) and it’s a beautiful day with barely any wind and glorious sunshine for all.

Simon reveals his legs!

Simon reveals his legs!

As I write, I can see crowds of people, local and otherwise, enjoying the tours being provided by the Historic Scotland rangers, students of Orkney College, and other volunteers, as well as Nick himself, taking in as much as can be taken in, given the complexity and wealth of information to learn about the Ness.

It’s always nice to see so much interest, although not surprising, I’m sure it will continue for years to come.

My day so far has been spent planning the walls and the annexe of Structure Twelve, which I am working in for the first time since I was part of the task force that extended the trench outwards to reveal the south wall in 2010.

As I’ve been working it has been a pleasure to speak to members of the public about the site and to answer their questions as well as to listen to the tours and find out things I didn’t know myself.

There is so much to learn about the archaeology and on daily basis theories about the structures’ uses and purposes emerge and dissipate which I find fascinating.

I certainly don’t envy those charged with the site’s publication in years to come, especially Dan, who is, unfortunately for him, a Watford supporter (not that I have much to brag about after seeing my beloved Norwich City thumped yesterday afternoon in the football).

There is a very relaxed atmosphere here today and I for one am enjoying not only the “shorts and t-shirt” weather but the jovial and friendly buzz around the Ness as is always the case.

So that’s all from me. I hope to be able to come back next year and do the same all over again.

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