Dig Diary – Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day Four

The midden baulks are removed in the CMA to the south of Structure One. (📷 ORCA)

Nothing’s going to stop us now . . .

Today at the Ness is the perfect example of Orkney’s eccentric and ever-changing weather. It started bright and breezy in the early morning, but descended into dirty clouds, rain and mirk by the start of digging.

The middle of the day was hot (although, see Chloe below to put that in context) and the afternoon now sees cloud drifting in from the south-west.

But none of this held back the archaeology.

In Structure Fourteen, Hugo and his team are moving ahead quickly. Woody and Martha are working in the north-west(ish) corner recess, removing the secondary paving and discovering earlier floors underneath.

On the other side of the structure, a potential painted stone turned up in an area of paving, although this has still to be confirmed.

As the diary is written Duncan, close by, has found a small, but handsomely decorated, Grooved Ware sherd.

It has serpentine decoration (a thin, applied cordon made into a tight wiggly line by pressing a sharp point against it on alternating sides).

Structure One continues to clean surfaces and in the central midden area (CMA) work is progressing quickly to remove the baulks.

Once they are gone the area can be planned and excavated as a whole, but it continues to provide interesting artefacts.

Chris found a fired clay ball, a type of artefact discovered in previous years at the site, but not recently.

Not far away, Finlay unearthed a handsome pot rim, which can best be described as having a sparse scallop decoration or, perhaps, pinched.

Outside Structure Twelve, to the south-west, Ben and Colin are extending the trench slightly over a kind of walkway with what may be a revetment wall, something like the walkway and wall around Structure Ten.

There remains the possibility that the “revetment wall”, may yet turn out to be part of the exterior wall of another structure. If so, it will almost certainly be under the spoil heap.

In Structure Twelve, work continues on moving down to the floor deposits and removing later paving and mini wall lines.

Once done, both ends of the structure will be fully in sequence.

On the east side of the exterior of Structure Twelve, our old friend Peter Brigham is busy finding more pottery (his speciality) and, in Structure Ten, Danny and Catriona are removing the overburden on the area where the massive bone deposition is found. Once done, this area will be the subject of more Smart Fauna research by Dr Ingrid Mainland.

In Structure Eight, Trina and her team will be quadranting a large, burnt lump (okay, not a scientific term, but descriptive) and in the wall core at the corner of Structure Ten another example of Neolithic art, in the form of lightly incised rock, has been discovered.

We did hope to have room to devote to the beard-growing competition proposed by Mike and Nick (both already bearded) but this will have to wait for a later diary, perhaps tomorrow.

From the Trenches

Chloe Berghausen
Chloe Berghausen

Hello! This is Chloe from the USA.

I’m attending the University of San Diego and will be finishing my BA in Anthropology this year.

It’s a bit surreal to be writing this, as, for the past year, I have been reading the previous blog posts of this beautiful place.

Part of our honours college’s senior requirements is to have a thesis and present it in front of a committee. I was perfectly flummoxed what I wanted to do it on (besides knowing it had to be about archaeology).

Until one day, last summer, my advisor, Dr. Alana Cordy-Collins (who I idealize and suspect may be the coolest person in the world), started posting pictures online about a magical land where there were puffins, standing stones, and about a site that may prove to revolutionize all of our preconceived notions about the Neolithic.

I was hooked; I pleaded when term started for her to take me along next year.  She said she wasn’t able to go, but she had a project for me if I wanted to undertake it.

A new technology is catching on in the San Diego Rock Art community called Decorrelation Stretch Algorithm (DStrech for short).

It makes perfectly normal cameras able to take pictures of rock surfaces and see what was once painted and carved onto it, which have since worn away. DStretch is great for the Ness because so many of the rocks have seemingly random incisions running across them. They’re everywhere and often remain undetected.

Delighted to be of use, I was trained in the program and my university graciously agreed to fund my journey. And so I came here to photograph the site, in this strange place where people begin to complain about the heat when it exceeds 50° Farenheit (much to my amusement).

Today is one such day and the lochs are sparkling, the midges are making their lazy appearance, and the flowering fields are dancing about.

Best of all, we are almost complete with packing up the tarps and tidying the site so excavations may start in earnest.

I hope some of you reading this will consider visiting us or volunteering alongside the team next season. One thing that sets this team apart is that every member is kindly and terribly bright about some aspect of the site that no one else knew about. In short, it’s a joy to spend the summer with them.

Thank you for your support and I hope you’re having a lovely day!

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