Excavating, mattocking and making plans
Dig Diary – Day Four
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Blue skies, sunshine and first-class archaeology. What more could you want.
But although today’s glorious weather undoubtedly boosted the number of site visitors today, in the trenches it was causing something of a problem. Aside from the dry, dusty conditions, bright sunlight is the bane of the archaeologist. It makes recognising subtle shifts in colour and tone of soil nigh on impossible.
For that reason, the water sprays were out today, dampening down dry surfaces and trench sections – particularly in Structure Ten.
There, site director Nick and supervisors Sinead and Jo were deep in discussion to put together an excavation strategy for the 2021 season. Structure Ten is a particularly complex building and now that the floor deposits have been reached, excavation enters a whole new realm of complexity.
In the building itself the drawing boards were out as the structure team carefully planned the few remaining unrecorded sections of archaeology. In addition, the interior has been gridded out (divided into squares), ready for this year’s floor sampling – a complex process that takes time, but which is invaluable for the recovery of information about the use of the building throughout its life.
Plans have also been put in place to remove some of the later, phase two, deposits that remain in the vicinity of the north wall.
There are similar isolated deposits of later material elsewhere in the building but differentiating between them and the earlier floor surfaces is challenging. But we’re confident that the Structure Ten team will prevail, and this later material can be removed, leaving only the primary floor surface inside the building.
To the south, Chris was working inside Structure Thirty-Two, the later building that sits on top of Five, while Ray was excavating the remains of the latter’s collapsed northern wall. From the evidence so far it seems that when Structure Thirty-Two was built the walls of Five were still extant and sections perhaps incorporated into the new building.
Other sections seem to have been robbed, the stone removed and possibly used for the construction of Thirty-Two itself.
The baulk separating Trench J and the north-western extension opened this week was removed and excavation continued.
At close of play today rubble still dominated the upper layers but hopefully we should get past them and reach the wall lines next week.
A gap at the northern end of Structure Thirty-Two’s surviving wall now looks like a good candidate for the building’s entrance.
Masonry now visible in the trench section beside the north-north-west orientated entrance looks like being the continuation of Thirty-Two’s wall.
There was a steady stream of interested visitors again today – watching the excavators in action, sponsoring squares and visiting the shop. Talking of which, a belated welcome to Rhona Bain, who is managing the Orkney Archaeology Society shop this season.
Don’t forget to pop past and see the range of goodies available to buy from Rhona.
Also on site today was Professor Ingrid Mainland from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. Ingrid, a zooarchaeologist, will be looking at some new bone deposits from Structure Ten.
Over the past two years, erosion of the eastern section of Trench P has exposed a considerable quantity of animal remains – mostly cattle. It seems these may be part of the same deposit previously found overlying Structure Ten’s threshold stone.
We’ll finish today’s diary with a reassurance.
One of our meet-and-greet team informed us today that a visitor thought they were not allowed to talk to the archaeologists on site. Not at all. If you’ve got a question or want something explained, just ask. Believe me, they will probably be delighted to take a few minutes out and rest their weary bones.
Back tomorrow. See you then.