Dig Diary – There’s more to Structure Twenty-Seven than meets the eye
Wednesday, July 28, 2022
It is an indisputable fact of archaeological life at the Ness that Structure Twenty-Seven in Trench T is an almighty puzzle. It is being excavated by the students from Willamette University, Oregon, USA, and they are doing an amazing job.
Day by day more of the structure is appearing as they clear away remaining midden and expose further sections of the walls.
This is all very welcome but thus far it has not led to any revelations about the total form or function of this most enigmatic of buildings.
Early this morning site director Nick met with supervisor Rick, Professor Scott Pike and Dr Jo McKenzie to chew over the latest conundrum to appear.
It concerns a section of yellow clay which, in other parts of the site, is interpreted as a clay floor. Initially it was also thought to be a floor in Structure Twenty-Seven, but now we are not so sure.
One of the ideas being explored is that, far from being a floor, the yellow clay could be a sealing deposit, sealing-off and preserving whatever might lie below.
Another element which hints at greater depth to the building than originally thought is the size of the very long recumbent stones which frame the interior of the building.
These stones protrude no more than six to eight inches above the ground surface. Yet, as Nick points out, it would have been simply impossible to successfully quarry out stone of that length if it was as shallow as its present position in the earth suggests.
They must be bigger and must be buried to a reasonable depth in the ground or they would simply topple over, so all of this implies that there could be a good deal more to Structure Twenty-Seven than we have seen thus far.
Nick has planned a sondage (a small, deep and carefully dug trench) down the side of one of the stones to establish the facts.
There is a more optimistic element to this analysis.
Yellow clay floors throughout the Ness are notorious (to us) for being scrupulously clean and largely devoid of artefacts. Thus far the interior of Structure Twenty-Seven has been similarly artefact-free.
However, if it is indeed a sealing deposit, who knows what lies beneath. We will keep you informed.
Site director Nick has also repeated his admiration for the wonderful quality of the exterior stonework of Structure Twenty-Seven, which he believes is almost unsurpassed at the Ness and possibly only equalled by the original internal walling of Structure Ten and a few elements of Structures Twelve and Twenty-Eight.
What she is finding at the base is more of the exterior wall of Structure Seventeen, which lies under the south-western corner of Eight. It seems the orthostatic box was set on top of Seventeen’s wall!
Dr Dave Lawrence, our local human bone guru, was on site this afternoon. After examination the femur fragment he confirmed it is indeed human and from an adult male who seemed to be in general good health judging by the almost pristine condition of the ball joint!
In Structure One Ellen has finished cleaning around the area of the western orthostat which related to the now-removed curving wall and she will investigate the cut made for it.
But everything is complicated by the orthostat which defined the north-western recess of the original building and also by an adjacent rectangular pit, which we investigated several years ago. The sequence is, indeed, complex but that is nothing new for the Ness.
The job of site director on the Ness is far from easy but at least nobody expects you to find artefacts.
Arriving at Trench T this morning, Nick surpassed himself by spotting something small and polished glimmering from the ground. Rowan investigated it and found the end of a very nice hammerstone.
This does not mean that the rest of us, humble diggers, can suddenly give him advice on excavation strategy. But we might try to, just for fun.