Dig Diary – Trench J produces 2022’s first polished stone axe
Friday, July 8, 2022
Can this really be the end of the first week at the Ness?
Time has flown past, much of it propelled on horizontal wind and rain, but site director Nick is very pleased with the progress made thus far, despite the vagaries of the weather.
The site is pretty much uncovered, although plastic sheeting will continue to cover sensitive areas from the weather in preparation for detailed sampling and recording.
In Structure Ten, Sinead and her team are taking out the last few features and occupation deposits on top of the primary floors.
Some of the orthostats which formed divisions and “furniture” within the structure are also being prepared for removal. These orthostats have been left in position for a few years and are overdue to be retired.
Not far away a robber cut which removed some orthostats is being carefully examined. The resulting hole had been filled by dumping in stone and pottery but the pottery sherds recovered are, unfortunately, in very poor condition.
Everyone has high hopes for Trench J where the remains of Structure Thirty-Two partially overlie Structure Five. Late in the day the remaining Structure Thirty-Two wall was being examined in preparation for its removal when a couple of hearth stones emerged, almost certainly part of the original Structure Five.
Chris Gee noticed an unusual lump on the surface of the hearth and, when he removed it, found a magnificent stone axe.
Stone axes and Chris seem to have a mutual attraction but the axe will remain unwashed so that it may be subjected to detailed analysis. Sigurd was on hand to photograph and record the moment.
This is the third stone axe found associated with a hearth in Trench J. In 2018, Colin found two in a later hearth over Structure Five.
Trench supervisor Paul had been hoping to work towards removing the wall fairly soon, “unless it is full of stuff”. With this new discovery he may have to think hard about the next move but the arrival of the camptonite axe has made a great end to the first week of excavation.
In Structure Eight work is concentrated at the very north end of the building, just inside the entrance. Jo’s team are looking closely at the interface between Structure Eight and Structure Eighteen, which lies beneath it.
They are carefully excavating the final occupation levels of Structure Eight and coming down onto the primary yellow clay floor.
Sampling is also taking place in a mini-grid quite close to the damage done by digging in the 1920s (when the original “Brodgar stone” was discovered) and close by Ray has found a most unusual stone.
It appears to have been impacted and seems to show damage radiating out from the impact area. To put it simply, it looks rather like a scallop shell or a photograph of an impact site on the surface of the moon.
We will keep the stone safe and show it to art expert Dr Antonia Thomas and also to rock expert Dr Martha Johnson who may be able to shed to some light on it.
In Structure One supervisor Andy is preparing the floors for a photography session and, nearby, Sigurd is trying to clarify, and hopefully confirm what we thought, whether Structure Twenty-One and Structure One are contemporary, or if Twenty-One was built slightly later than One – a slight conundrum revealed during further post-ex analysis and revisiting the site matrix once again.
The weather has not been kind to our artist in residence Dr Karen Wallis. She has found it difficult to sketch in a semi-gale, but has compensated by recording the noise of the wind with some good advice from her sound engineer son.
He suggested that the wind can be best captured as sound by staying out of it, which explains why Karen was spotted seemingly hiding among the long grass.
Have a good weekend and we will see you all next week.