Dig Diary – Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Day Seven

A damp, but exciting, day…

Jaz with the transverse arrowhead she found in Structure Twelve this morning. (Sigurd Towrie)

We ended yesterday’s diary with a defiant challenge to the weather gods.

Now that we’re all home, clean, warm and in dry clothes again, we can look back and say that the conditions on site were nowhere near as bad as forecast.

Yes, some of our visiting diggers were not too comfortable in the 11 deg C summer temperatures. Yes, the rain came. But fortunately (and much to the relief of site director Nick) the wet weather crept in over the Ness of Brodgar late in the afternoon, when thoughts were beginning to turn to packing up and heading home.

Although this meant an exodus of damp diggers from the site at the end of the day, it meant that no excavation time was lost and a full day’s work went ahead.

A closer view of the Structure Twelve arrowhead. (Sigurd Towrie)

And what a day it was.

It was an exciting day exclaimed director Nick and he was not wrong. Shortly after work resumed this morning, a stream of finds became to flow from the trenches and this was accompanied by new insights and “Eureka” moments in structures across the site.

The first of the day’s finds was a transverse arrowhead from Structure Twelve, which was awoken from its slumber for the first time since 2017 last week.

A delighted Emily with her flint scraper – one of two found in Trench J today. (Sigurd Towrie)

Discovered by Jaz, the flint arrowhead differs somewhat from the “normal” arrowhead.

While these tapered to a piercing point, the transverse arrowhead widens to a cutting edge and was hafted onto an arrow shaft at its narrowest point.

Without going into too much detail, the broad cutting edge was useful for bringing down large prey relatively quickly.

Jaz’s beautiful arrowhead is one of only a handful found on the Ness so is a particularly interesting find. Its transfer to the finds hut heralded the start of a flood of artefacts, including a fine decorated pot from Trench T and a lovely flint scraper from Trench J.

A closer view of one of the two flint tools recovered in Trench J. (Sigurd Towrie)

While work picked up pace in the trenches as our excavation team got to work, Trench T saw a new group of excited faces eager to try their hand at some archaeology.

This was the first 2019 outing for the youngsters of the Excavation Club, who were put to work in the new extension to Trench T, digging away in the upper plough soil.

The session complete, they all seemed very happy with their experience as they departed the site. Definitely a group of future archaeologists in the making.

Elsewhere in Trench T, work continued removing more of the midden deposit overlying the demolition level associated with Structure Twenty-Seven.

Working down through the midden layers in Trench T. (Sigurd Towrie)

There’s a bit more work to be done but hopefully by the beginning of next week we’ll have a clearer picture of the final days of Structure Twenty-Seven.

Over in Structure Twelve, Linda is creating an up-to-date plan of the north-eastern interior in preparation of the removal of dumps of material obscuring the later floor levels in this area.

Structure Twelve supervisor, Jim, has been thinking about the large ash dump at the southern end of the structure and wonders if it is the result of the same process that led to massive ash deposits found in one of the building’s side recesses on its NW side.

These, it is suggested, represent the remains of cooking “events” within the building.

Planning and excavating in Structure Twelve. (Sigurd Towrie)

There has been something of a revelation in Structure Ten, where Sarah and Nick had been scratching their heads about the lack of a primary floor in the building’s south-western interior.

Sarah now suspects that the missing floor level was probably removed when the interior of Structure Ten was cleared out prior to its remodelling and second phase of use. The lack of floors in this area coinciding with the most obvious damage, robbing and rebuilding of Structure 10’s outer wall on its SW corner.

Trench J supervisor, Paul, at work on the second entrance to Structure Five. (Sigurd Towrie)

Trench J was a veritable hive of activity today and this has brought with it new insights into the Early Neolithic building – Structure Five – it contains.

Last year, a second side entrance to the structure was revealed — a doorway that had been deliberately blocked off at some point in its life.

Today, it seems this doorway once led into a passageway/entranceway construction.

The question now is did this lead into a twin structure such as that found at the Knap of Howar, in Papa Westray, and at the Knowes of Trotty in Harray?

Meanwhile Ray, Gary and Emily have been revealing more of the later Structure Thirty-Two, which overlies the western end of Structure Five, gradually removing more of the midden obscuring its remains.

Aaron planning one of the two later hearths found in Trench J – this one overlying the remains of Structure Five. (Sigurd Towrie)

Staying in Trench J, both of the later hearths have been half-sectioned by Marc, Aaron and Kaehlin and work to excavate their contents began.

And last, but not least, Mike and a small team of diggers have been squirreled away in Trench Y, finishing off the very ephemeral features cut into the natural and which were revealed when the trench was opened in 2018 to investigate the possibility of a connecting wall running from the north to south of the site.

Sadly, nothing very substantial has come out of the trench but fingers crossed we’ll get some radiocarbon dates to place the activity within into the grand scheme of the Ness complex as a whole.

Now, as the rain falls in sheets across your diary writer’s attic window, there’s just one last plea.

If you have not secured a copy of our official guidebook yet (or indeed Ness stalwart Woody Musgrove’s superb photographic record of the 2017 excavation season) doing so would be a great boon to Ness excavation funds.

Visitors to the site so far that summer have been astonished to learn that the bulk of the funds required to continue excavation on the Ness comes from the very generous donations from people across the world.

Without these donations (for which we are eternally grateful) we simply could not continue. So if you can buy a copy of either book, it all goes to help keep the coffers from running dry.

And talking of dry, I shall go and stare at tomorrow’s weather forecast while willing it to change. Will it work? Probably not. But there’s no harm in trying.

Until tomorrow.