Dig Diary – Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Day Twenty-Two

‘I bet that’s a standing stone’

Let’s wind back to the beginning of this year’s dig, when site director, Nick, and Structure Twelve supervisor, Jim, were standing musing over that particularly lovely structure.

They were engaged in characteristic behaviour for field archaeologists, i.e. standing and pointing at stone with expressions of acute (indeed painful) concentration on their faces.

Actually, they could have been discussing what they were having for dinner, but, on this occasion, Jim pointed to an orthostat peeking through the surface of the midden and said: “I bet that’s a standing stone.”

Nick disagreed, and, to his credit, admits it.

Especially now as the orthostat is identified as a standing stone –  indeed one of two flanking a previously invisible primary entrance to Structure Twelve, in its east wall, adjacent to the remnants of the central pier on this side.

The two standing stones that flank the new entrance to Structure Twelve.

The two standing stones that flank the new entrance to Structure Twelve.

If they do indeed relate to the primary phase of Structure Twelve, this means that they could still survive to over a metre in height, judging by the level of floors with the building.

This is really exciting news. Jim spent last week unravelling the complex history of Structure Twelve, which involves construction, deconstruction and a second episode of construction.

The secondary construction is much less successful than the first. The same beautifully shaped and pecked stones from the first phase were used in the reconstruction, but the standard of the work is poor.

Piers were rebuilt, but slightly out of position and sections of walling and other piers were not tied into the adjoining stonework.

It is all a bit shoddy.

But this new discovery has restored the gloss to this extraordinary building.

At last, Mic is nearing the end of his marathon pot removal.

At last, Mic is nearing the end of his marathon pot removal.

If the grand entrance to Structure Ten involved an entrance, flanked on the exterior by two standing stones, the same now seems true of its neighbour across the way (though on a slightly lesser scale – though sure Jim would disagree!)

Does this imply that Structure Ten and Structure Twelve may have been contemporary?

A good deal of stratigraphic work still requires to be done, especially as the area between the two structures is one of the few parts of the Ness not to have been examined in detail thus far.

Indeed this work will have to wait until next year as there are far too few days left to embark on such a major task.

A temporal link between the buildings does, however, remain possible, even if the evidence must wait for another season.

Today proved all too much for Tansy.

Today proved all too much for Tansy.

Jo McKenzie’s work in the gathering of micromorphological samples continued today as she darted from structure to structure, ending the day with her head and shoulders wedged into the hearth of Structure Fourteen.

Complementing her work next week will be Lisa Shillito, from the University of Edinburgh.

Lisa was here last year, working in the main trench, but this time she will be taking samples from the midden of Trench T, which will be a major, and rather daunting, task.

Hugo assists Jo taking micromorph samples from a hearth in Structure One.

Hugo assists Jo taking micromorph samples from a hearth in Structure One.

And a final word (he hopes) on Mic and his mammoth task of pottery extraction from the north end of Structure Twelve.

As we have noted before, Mic has hardly moved from this spot for three weeks, so great is the volume of pot emerging from the floor.

It clearly represents a final event in the history of the structure and some interesting and unusual pottery has emerged. Mic’s latest contribution to the overflowing finds hut (get well soon, Anne. We need you) is decorated pottery which may be coloured. We will know more when it dries a little.

We will end here as the weather has been unpleasant and everyone is just a touch weary.

A good night’s rest will restore body and soul and we will see you tomorrow.

From the Trenches


William Chestnut.

My name is William Chesnut, and I am here with the Willamette field school, though I attend University of California at Davis, working towards a degree in evolutionary Anthropology.

After discovering that it was an option to come to the site, the fact that it was a chance to work at a site that was a novel time period for me from the field school perspective pushed this to the top of my list of possibilities. The other aspect was it would give me a chance to experience the archaeological method that the UK uses in comparison to the US in the preservation of cultural resources.

As with many of us Willamette students, I have spent much of the time assigned over in Trench T, for the past week we have been working in a metre-by-metre quadrant, with a short intermission to produce a step in the trench wall so the deeper part of the trench could be entered.

Of the quadrant, mine is the one farthest down the slope. This entire slope seems to be successive midden dumps, and the quadrant I was in exhibited a large number of smaller dumps contained within each individual context.

As to what was in the quadrant, it was relatively sparse compared to the ones farther up the slope. But as of yesterday afternoon we finally reached sterile natural. Which meant we had reached the end of the quadrant and today was spent drawing the sections. Scott Pike also came out and is taking a core of the natural.

Earlier in the season, I was afforded the opportunity several times to assist in the sorting of the heavy fraction of the samples that were taken for floatation, an intensely interesting process where the native stone pebbles and sand is removed from the part of the sample that was denser than water, leaving and then sorting the culturally relevant material.

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