Dig Diary – Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Day Thirty-Eight

The potter’s mark? The cord impression on the inside of a pot fragment from Trench J. (Ole Thoenies)

Physical traces of a Neolithic potter?

Trench J supervisor Paul carefully excavates a worked stone tool. (Jo Bourne)

This, dear readers, is our last diary of the 2019 excavation season at the Ness.

You will have realised that there are certain people who are absolutely essential to the success of this extraordinary archaeological adventure, and we want to thank them now.

We owe huge thanks to Ola and Arnie Tait, who have let us desecrate their field for many years and who have been unfailing sources of support and encouragement.

Success! The excavated artefact. (Jo Bourne)

The same must be said for Rosemary and Neil McCance who, likewise, sustain us by their kindness and support and who also supply the ready-marked finds bags which make everyone’s life on site so much easier.

Huge thanks to the Historic Environment Scotland Rangers for taking the third site tour of the day and thus sparing the strained vocal chords of the archaeologist guides.

On the subject of vital sustenance, we cannot thank enough Brian and Mary of Orkney Zero Waste, who have supplied delicious and sustaining food to the diggers at break times. On cold, wet days their kind offerings have made all the difference.

The archaeological work over, the next two days will see the entire site covered with plastic, sandbags and hundreds upon hundreds of tyres. (Jo Bourne)

Naturally, site director Nick is hugely grateful to the excavation team for great work carried out with enthusiasm and good humour. We hope to see as many of you as possible back next year. Thanks also to our on-site artists who recorded the site in all its many and varied moods.

Life would have been much more difficult without the meeters and greeters, the car park folk and the amazing OAS volunteers who have staffed the site shop, so sincere thanks to them.

Lastly we want to thank our visitors who have arrived in many thousands to see this remarkable Neolithic site.

They have been attentive and engaged, full of questions and generous in their comments about the work being done here.

“Last week syndrome”, which we mentioned earlier this week as the effect which turns up interesting objects just as the site closes down, has continued today.

Note the cord impression to the left of the sherd. (Ole Thoenies)

Some uninspiring-looking pottery from Trench J, fire-cracked and sooted on the exterior, turned out to be very interesting on the inside surface.

There we could see the clear imprint of a length of astonishingly fine twisted twine (pictured at the top of the page), together with what might turn out to be a fingerprint.

As these impressions are on the inside of the pot our initial theory rests on the possibility that the Neolithic potter may have reached inside the pot in order to finish its construction.

In doing so she (or he) may have brushed the softish pot interior with a hand and perhaps the material of a sleeve or garment of some sort.

It’s just a working theory but the twine or cord impression is remarkably fine and wonderfully clear.

Backfilling Trench Y by the banks of the Loch of Stenness. (Jo Bourne)

We will let you know more in our news update which you can sign up to here.

We hope to be back next year but, sadly, we cannot be sure.

The finances of our excavation are never secure and we face many challenges in the months to come.

You can help by making on online donation or by buying our guidebook. We would be so grateful for this sort of support, for without it the work at the Ness might come to a sudden and very sad end.

But we’ll end on a bright note.

This has been a tremendous season of excavation. We’ll hope for more of the same next year.

Until then…..