Dig Diary – Wednesday, August 26, 2015
So long, and thank you all . . .
Well, dear readers, this is the last diary entry for the 2015 excavation season. Over the next two days the site will be closed down — encased in black plastic sheeting that will be held down by hundreds of tyres, rocks and sandbags.
It is heavy work and we have the highest admiration for the diggers, together with local volunteers, who will undertake the task (remember, if you have a few spare hours tomorrow or Friday, do come along and help, in old clothes, waterproofs and gloves – your efforts will be rewarded with a signed copy of the new guidebook).
In the diary room, the pottery dust and mud will be wiped from the laptop, biscuit crumbs will be removed and we will try to hide the bootmarks on Martha’s carpets.
It has been a wonderful season of work and the Ness has reconfirmed its reputation as the site which keeps on giving — in terms of data, samples and, of course, many hundreds of artefacts of all sorts.
New understandings have been reached, on a host of subjects, and, as ever on a site of such magnitude and complexity, even more problems and questions have been raised.
Yet, tired as everyone is after eight weeks of hard endeavour, we have to shake ourselves and remember that the excavation season is only a small part of the archaeological work on the Ness.
The next ten months, until we return, will be filled with analysis of all the materials and data from this year.
Among the many triumphs of the summer there have been events which have brought us up short.
Not the least of these came at the very end with the discovery of the internment of the tiny neonatal baby, who died 5,000 years ago.
We rhapsodise over rock, pottery, wall lines and structures and we are right to do so because these are wonderful things.
But the remains of that fragile wee soul were a necessary reminder that the ultimate goal of our study is the people of the Ness — the often amazing humans who accomplished remarkable things on this site long before the pyramids of Egypt were built.
At this point, we feel we have to do things differently from previous years.
To say we are grateful to all who have worked, and helped, is a lamentable understatement.
We have, however, become an international endeavour over the last year or so.
Our reach seems to extend to all corners of the globe and the evidence of this has been the veritable United Nations of visitors who have poured on to the site and who have numbered at least 10,000.
We want to thank every one of them — including the remarkable gentleman who came all the way from Mexico, just to visit the Ness for just one day.
We feel, however, a huge debt of gratitude for the many people who have dug here, who have helped on-site and off-site and who have supported us, at home as well as abroad.
Our problem is that there are now far too many to thank individually.
This seems a hard thing to say but we sat down and thought about them all and realised that the Orkneyjar website would probably crash if we listed everyone.
Please, all of you, accept the warmest possible thanks from site director Nick, and the Ness team, for all that you have done, the long hours you have worked and the often appalling weather you have endured, both on site and behind the scenes.
We do, however, want to mention two sets of names.
These are the people who have been our bedrock since the very beginning.
Firstly, we want to thank Ola and Arnie Tait, the owners of the land on which the excavation site sits and who have supported us and allowed us to excavate their field every summer.
Their names are mentioned to visitors every day and to say that nothing would have been accomplished without them is an expression of simple truth.
As with Neil and Rosemary McCance, who work with us in the Archaeology Institute UHI throughout the year and who, from January onwards, devote themselves to producing the thousands of small finds bags, without which everything would grind to a halt.
Many, many thanks to both couples.
We have a few other things to mention. We are proud of our new guidebook.
We printed 5,000 copies this year, thinking they would last for a long while. But they are now almost all gone.
All money raised from the sales of the book go to the Ness of Brodgar excavation fund.
If you would like one of the few remaining copies — before we order a reprint — they can be bought online, here.
We will also have to turn our thoughts over the winter to more fundraising.
In that respect, and we hope teetotallers will forgive us, we have hatched a plan for a Ness alcoholic drink, to be called Old Meldrum Window Cleaner.
Regular readers will realise that this is a development from Monday’s diary, when we mentioned the remarkable concoction of Mrs Ethel Mitchell, of Old Meldrum, Aberdeenshire, which cleans windows like magic and which includes vodka.
Or at least, we thought it did. An indignant Mrs Mitchell now tells us that the vital ingredient is, in fact, whisky.
Her daughter, Finds Hut Anne, insists that this mistake shows her innocence of any involvement, but we are not so sure.
Anyway, we will push ahead with its development.
We are confident Van Morrison, that well-known window aficionado, will provide musical backing and we hope to raise enough money to see you all next year.
Until then . . . farewell.