Drain delving in Structure Twelve
Dig Diary – Day Seven
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
After an afternoon of rain yesterday, day seven dawned brightly and the sun shone all day.
At the north end of Structure Twelve is a large pit in the floor filled with large stones. We have long suspected these were used to infill the hole left when drain, discovered in the central midden area, collapsed in prehistory.
In 2019, excavation between Structures Eight and Twelve revealed a hole – a large, very deep hole that led to the largest drain at the Ness.
Stretching across the site for over 30 metres, its presence shows the entire Ness complex was carefully planned from the outset. It is almost certainly primary to the earliest phases of piered structures on the site and clearly played a central role in the way in which these were laid out.
The drain measures over 50cm wide and seemed to have been drystone-built with some of the lintels still in place.
The depth remains unknown, but its presence clarified some of the slumping we see at the north end of Structure Twelve – the rubble-filled pit within Structure Twelve is probably collapsing into the drain beneath and beyond the south-west corner of the building is another pit, on the same alignment, which is also probably collapsing into the same drain.
Work to remove the rubble from the pit inside the building today, which will hopefully give us an insight into the drain, which predates Structure Twelve and its predecessor, Structure Twenty-Eight. So far the stone-filled pit has yielded pottery and at close of play today a spread of well-preserved animal remains.
Stay tuned and we’ll tell you more tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Jan continued removing a quarter section of the contents of the building’s large southern hearth. This is a very difficult task, particularly because she has to dissect and record each layer of the ashy spread.
As an illustration of how interpretations change on site, the curved wall face jutting from the trench to the west of Structure Twelve was given a clean-up after being uncovered last week.
Site director Nick had wondered whether this wall face was perhaps related to Structure Twenty-Nine – a similar curved wall section south of Structure One – and perhaps both belonged to the same building.
Supervisor Jim has pointed out, however, that the wall beside Twelve was built on top of an area of collapse to the south-west of Twelve that also seems to relate to the massive drain running across the site.
If this is the case, the western wall has to belong to a separate, much later building than Structure Twenty-Nine.
In addition, the building’s rather shoddy stonework has more in common with the later ephemeral buildings such as Structure Twenty-Six, to the north-east, which are contemporary with the rebuild of Structure Ten.
Nick has held his hands up and admitted he was wrong in this case. Just don’t go rushing to the Structure Twenty-Nine page on the website, until I get a chance to rewrite it later tonight!
Remaining in Structure Twelve, up against the north-western pier, and butting against its southern face, an intriguing stone arrangement has emerged.
We’re not sure what this represents yet, but, hopefully, as more is revealed, we’ll be able to tell you more.
The exposed archaeology is very puzzling indeed, showing multiple wall faces that are difficult to place into any semblance of order.
What the archaeology suggests is that the Structure Five wall, which stood outside (and in some parts was perhaps incorporated into) Structure Thirty-Two suffered a major collapse – perhaps blocking the entrance to the later building.
Further excavation is required to see how this affected the subsequent use of Thirty-Two.
In Structure Ten, the fine weather meant that the final planning tasks were completed and work began excavating and sampling the floor deposits.
Sinead and her team have done sterling work in recording the interior of the buildings and the trench sections and we’re looking forward to seeing what discoveries lie on the horizon.
Less than a week after the site re-opened to the public, we’ve been delighted by the response. By close of business today, we’ve had in the region of 1,000 visitors. Among these was the eminent archaeologist Dr Alex Gibson, who is on holiday in Orkney.
Dr Gibson was shown around the site by Nick and Mark Edmonds and seemed delighted by the archaeology on display.
Tomorrow looks certain to be another exciting day on site, so we’ll see you then for the latest updates.
Making art at the Ness
Visitors to site will have spotted Jeanne Rose, one of our artists in residence, at work around Trench P.
Jeanne, who has been a support of the Ness excavations for many years, and her artwork can be purchased here. Proceeds from each sale go to the Ness excavation funds.