Dig Diary – Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Day Thirty-Three

The beautifully incised, but tiny, stone from the cell/passage outside the eastern entrance of Structure Twelve. Click the image for a larger version. (Sigurd Towrie)

‘Compulsive building, re-building, alteration and improvement’

Martin with this afternoon’s 3pm tour down by Trench T. (Sigurd Towrie)

After the massive cleaning exercise for yesterday’s photo sessions, the Ness is looking magnificent today in the sunshine.

The buildings are sharply delineated, making their outlines even easier to see for the visitors who continue to flock to the site in large numbers.

The archaeology has also been advancing swiftly with excavation taking place in Structures Eight, Ten, Twelve and Trench T.

In Structure Twelve, Linda and Hannah are continuing with the vital work of recording the entire interior by the old-fashioned method, which means crouching over features with planning frame, paper and pencil.

Hannah planning in Structure Twelve. (Sigurd Towrie)

There is no doubt that this process can be very satisfying, but it also very hard on backs.

Linda and Hannah are, as our grannies used to say, “young and soupple” so we are sure they will manage. The ageing amongst us can only wish for digital recording.

The work in Structure Twelve is an essential preparation for next year when (hopefully) the last of the floor deposits will be removed.

The area outside the eastern entrance to Structure Twelve continues to fascinate.

Bruce lifted a flagstone behind one of the standing stones to reveal a large spread of cattle jaw bones, which have been lifted with help from Claire and Anne.

Bruce’s bone spread at the eastern entrance to Structure Twelve before excavation. (Sigurd Towrie)

As is usual, they are not in the best condition and we will keep them safe for our animal bone specialist, Dr Ingrid Mainland.

Also in the entrance area Sigurd continues his work examining the fills of the side annexes. In one of them Claire spotted a stone covered in finely incised motifs including chevrons.

Unfortunately the stone is flaking, splitting and indulging in every sort of stony self-harm that could be imagined.

Another picture of the finely incised stone outside the entrance to Structure Twelve, with a scale highlighting its diminutive size. Click the image for a larger version. (Sigurd Towrie)

Its details are safe, however, as it has been extensively photographed and recorded as we are pretty sure it cannot be removed in one piece.

In Structure Eight, work continues on the very last vestiges of occupation.

This has led to a better understanding of Structure Eighteen, which lies beneath.

The northern end of the northern hearth in Structure Eight is clearly a later alteration and what is now visible is one of the piers of Structure Eighteen partly concealed below the hearth.

Unpicking the history of Structure Eight and its predecessors. (Sigurd Towrie)

This is important as it confirms that these earlier buildings underneath the main structures actually had piers.

At the south end of Structure Eight there is also a much better understanding of Structures Thirty-Three, Thirty-Four, Twenty-Eight and Seventeen and a basic matrix for their construction history has now been established.

With tyres stacked around its perimeter, ready for next week’s cover-up, work continued today in Trench T. (Sigurd Towrie)

All of this now emphasises the history of the Ness as being characterised by compulsive building, re-building, alteration and improvement.

The place seems never to have stood still or been “finished” in any real sense and this is a vital insight into the understanding of this extraordinary Neolithic place.

At the south end of Structure Eight, a complete plan of Structure Seventeen and the way in which it was incorporated into Structure Eight is now available. This has also clarified the history of Structure Eight, which was originally thought to be a single phase of activity.

It is now seen to be considerably more complicated, with the partial demolition of the structure to accommodate Structure Ten, which left the northern half with a roof and the southern half roofless and the location of considerable activity involving extensive use of hearths.

There will be more fascinating news tomorrow.

See you then.

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