Dig Diary – Tuesday, July 26, 2016
The structure with no name . . .
Today was a day of head-scratching and complexities in more than one of the Ness structures.
In the ominously-named Trench X, Anne, Colin and their team have revealed more of the horseshoe-shaped affair, which has appeared at the north end of the trench and adjacent to Structure Twelve.
There are indications now that the interior of the feature may be partially paved and this brings to mind the late and not-particularly-lamented Structure Twenty-Two, which lay on, and over, the north side of Structure Fourteen.
There are, however, hints of piers which may relate to earlier building under this, but more will be revealed as the excavation work proceeds.
At the bottom of Trench X, Jay has continued to work away at the deep soils, which are now revealing a substantial quantity of animal bone.
There is a possibility that these bones may be more historic than prehistoric, and perhaps related to the presence of a relatively modern field boundary.
The only way to know for sure is to show them to our bone expert, Dr Ingrid Mainland, when she makes one of her periodic visits to the site.
If Trench X is complex, Structure Twelve is hideously so.
Jim and his team are grappling with different elements of different phases in the yellow floors present there.
It is reminiscent of a stratigraphic Gordian Knot and there are very few stratigraphic relationships which are even moderately straightforward.
As a perfect example, one side of the hearth is completely different to the other and mention of the middle of the structure brings out one of Jim’s deepest sighs.
It is all complicated by the presence of three earlier buildings lurking under Structure Twelve’s benign surface and Jim is beginning to wonder if, instead of two main phases in the building’s life, there may in fact be three.
There is no agreement on this yet but time will tell.
At least the small floor sondages are beginning to show results, and the one next to the hearth has uncovered a forest of small stake holes. Their purpose is unknown, but the most mischievous suggestion is that they held spits for the impaling and roasting of Orkney voles.
There is more progress to report from Structure Ten, where Mike and Claire are continuing with the painstaking recording of the bone deposit under the buttress through rectified photography.
Just behind them, Jasper has been exploring the robber cut in the south wall and, having worked his way down through the midden wall core, has discovered a deposit of cattle bone including scapulae and other elements.
These as yet do not appear to constitute particular deposition, as at the Links of Noltland in Westray, (where interlinked cattle skulls formed the wall core of one of their buildings) but further work on them will be both interesting and revealing.
Today was the second visit by the youngsters of the Excavation Club and one of the youngest members, Daisy Reay, showed that archaeological talent can run in families. She is the daughter of Structure Fourteen supervisor Dave Reay and, if she continues at this pace, Dad Dave may have a new team member.
Another talented family member appeared in Structure Ten where Nick’s younger daughter, Beth, joined Sarah and Alison in examining the remaining deposits on the north side next to the buttress (under strict supervision!).
The Expedition Club also had the benefit of Chris Gee’s expertise in creating and using pigment colours.
This was clearly great fun and the youngsters left the demonstration more highly coloured than when they arrived.
We have also been joined on site by artist and photographer Matthew C. Wilson, whose work is a collaboration with Leiden University and the German Archaeological Institute.
We have a most important date for the diaries of those of you who are in Orkney at the moment.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, Dr Ann MacSween, one of the foremost experts in Grooved Ware pottery, will be giving a talk in Stromness. It will be in the Royal Hotel at 8pm.
Ann will be visiting us on site to discuss our enormous assemblage of Grooved Ware pottery and we urge everyone to attend her talk as it will be a rare opportunity to hear about the latest research on this vital area of Neolithic studies.
See you there . . .