Dig Diary – Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Day Twenty-Three


Casey and Tom share in Jim’s delight as the pot spread outside Structure Twelve’s blocked southern entrance comes to an end to reveal beautiful paving.

Star find of the season so far

Matt’s double pot from Trench T.

One of our nicest finds this year emerged today — a double pot found by Matt in Trench T.

This was the third of these intriguing little vessels to be discovered and they make a wonderful contrast to the large slabs of pot which emerge so often from right across the site.

Our new double pot is a small, flattish piece of ceramic, just under 4cm in length, with two perfectly round impressions side-by-side.

If it was a bit bigger you could imagine it holding canapés of boiled and roasted vole and being handed round at Neolithic parties, but as it is tiny we really have no idea what it could have been used for.

We might ask Scott if his portable XRF machine could give any clues as to what the small depressions contained, if anything.

We haven’t mentioned Structure Eight for some time, although activity there has been intense in the main part of the structure.

The area which has missed out for a few years is the structure’s one-and-only entrance, within the possibly horned façade at the north end.

Jo and Ilana are now clearing and cleaning the area in preparation for removing the large blocking stone and the flagstones which cut it off from the interior of the building.

Entrances, blocked or otherwise, are interesting places to explore and we have high hopes for what emerge here.

A handsome piece of pottery, with multiple parallel cordons, has been found among the remains of the huge pot spread outside the blocked southern end of Structure Twelve.

Casey and Tom have been removing the material, which is one of several spreads of pot associated with the structure, both inside and out, but this latest discovery possibly tells an interesting story about how midden and pot was deposited there.

Alice assists Sam with taking samples for archaeomagnetic dating in the large southern hearth in Structure Eight.

The new pot is very similar, and may be from the same vessel, to an earlier sherd which was found close by in previous years, but at a much higher level.

If it is the same pot, the fact that the two sherds are at different levels suggests strongly that the material outside the nearby blocked entrance was deposited simultaneously, rather than accumulating more slowly.

This gives us an interesting insight into the deposition of material on site.

In Structure Eight, veteran digger of several years, and former UHI student, Alice, is back for another stint.

She is assisting Sam in the large double-hearth at the southern end of the structure as he takes samples for his PhD.

This fascinating piece of work is centred on finding more and more dates to add to the calibration curve acquired through archaeomagnetic dating. This is a new and exciting area which, through Sam’s studies, is already showing huge promise.

Later this week, he will work with Cecily in our Kirkwall HQ to extract samples for radiocarbon dating which will be placed alongside his archaeomagnetic dates and which will, hopefully, provide verification for them.

We are delighted to welcome Dave back to supervise Trench T. He has enjoyed time off at a wedding in England, but is now back in the trench with furrowed brow.

Some of what is emerging is easy enough to understand, like the basal slabs and stepped footing for the Structure Twenty-Seven walls.

Other elements are devilishly complicated, such as more of the enigmatic pits and the strange little walls which hinder understanding of this most difficult of trenches.

Tomorrow is forecast to be wet, especially in the morning. Barring an accompanying plague of frogs, we will see you then.


From the Trenches

Hannah, today’s blogger, with her flint find.

My name is Hannah Draper and being an archaeology student based in Orkney College means that you hear all about the Ness of Brodgar and what stories it can tell, but actually digging at the site is something different.

The size of the structures that are on display and how well some of the walls stand is amazing to see in person.

My first trip to Orkney was when I moved up to study, and travelling from Fife meant I could act like a tourist for the first few months of studying, but I am surprised at myself that I haven’t visited the Ness sooner as this is my first time seeing it first-hand.

The weather is still surprising me even after spending my first year of university here.

Today has been rather sunny and when you look at your arm in front of you it is hard to tell if you have tanned or if that is just some mud, but it doesn’t stop the day continuing or you getting covered in even more mud.

More of the stepped foundation slabs and robbed-out walling of Structure Twenty-Seven in Trench T are revealed.

After transferring to Trench T made it sink in just how long people have used the whole site as the other trench I’ve worked in was early Neolithic and now I’m in a trench that has Iron Age in it.

The area that Darroch, Matt, Lucy and myself, a bunch of UHI students, are trowelling away in doesn’t make much sense to us as there is a structure that we are working around but hopefully we will get some answers soon.

Then, scraping away top layers of soil started to reveal different shades of brown, orange and red with lots of burnt bone throughout the area, which I was happy to find.

The other students around me were finding pot, foreign stone and pumice, to name a few, but then I found this piece of flint, which to be honest I almost threw away as a rock, and that has made the day worth it.

You feel like a child when you find something that you can place in a small finds bag and when this is your first find of your experience then it is even more exciting. Although you do wonder, what is still to be uncovered? What other exciting discoveries are there to be found?

My confidence as an archaeologist has increased so much over the past two weeks with the help of a really friendly team and knowledgeable supervisors and I hope to become more familiar with everything as time goes on and I gain more experience.

Plus, I’ve already spoken to Nick about coming back next year!

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