Dig Diary – Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Day Eight

Investigating the area between Structures Twelve and Twenty-Six (Nick Card)

Entrances and passageways

Linda and Jim at work inside Structure Twelve. (Emily O’Farrell)

Archaeology is in full flow today, only slightly hindered by the hot and sticky weather which seems to have dumped copious amounts of rain on a neighbouring parish, but not on us.

In Structure Twelve, Linda has nearly finished planning in the northern half.

In the southern section Site director Nick, Jim (Structure Twelve supervisor), and Claire (supervisor of Structure Twenty-Six), have been discussing the area between the two structures. Excavation started there last year and they have now resolved some of the puzzles which emerged then.

Excavation under way today in the area between Structures Twelve and Twenty-Six. (Emily O’Farrell)

A larger area/sondage is now being explored and there are exciting indications that there may be a passageway aligned with the original eastern entrance to Structure Twelve, an entrance that stayed in use, most unusually, throughout the life of the building and notable for its handsome flanking standing stones.

There is a possibility that material apparently blocking the entrance between the two standing stones may be part of a late additional annexe arrangement, similar to the one attached to the northern end of Structure Twelve and associated with the later entrance.

The horned spiral decorated stone from the area between Structure Twenty-Six and Structure Twelve found in 2018. (Jo Bourne)

If it is a passageway (leading to Structure Thirty?), or even if it turns out to be a significant area between two structures, it may emerge as a location replete with incised and pecked stone decoration, almost like the “art gallery” effect noticed in other areas of the site.

Last year a wonderful horned spiral stone (see picture above) was found in the rubble over the top of this area. More of the same would be welcome.

Working down the midden layers in Trench J’s Structure Thirty-Two. (Emily O’Farrell)

As we mentioned in yesterday’s diary, work continues in Trench J with yet more of the entrance area uncovered involving an outer wall face close to the original entrance.

This feature was noticed when the trench was first opened some years ago and it all points to several rebuilds and phases in the life of Structure Five.

Staying in Trench J, the potential floors of Structure Thirty-Two seem to be exhibiting evidence of lots of ephemeral activity in the past but the real hope is that what looks like large, ashy dumps may cover a proper floor and potential evidence of an entrance at one end of the building.

The suspected entrance to Structure Twenty-Seven. (Jo Bourne)

Trench T is a busy place today, with the removal of midden material around the single orthostat which could be part of the entrance arrangement.

The nature of the robbing debris present suggests another parallel orthostat originally completed the entrance, forming what must have been quite a narrow potential passageway, perhaps only three feet wide.

By the end of this week, Nick hopes that the removal of more of the overlying middens and robbing debris will have confirmed further details of the layout of this strange building.

Working down through the midden overlying Structure Twenty-Seven’s suspected entrance. (Jo Bourne)

In Trench Y, Mike and his small team are near to finishing off, although they have uncovered a series of shallow gullies.

At first glance these might have been taken for ard marks (an ard is a small hand plough) but they are now thought to be the vestiges of a light structure of some sort because of their regularity.

The Ness is now a very large and complex archaeological site.

We do our best to describe what is taking place in its growing number of locations, but it is all made much easier for the reader by consulting the daily diary in tandem with our guidebook, the second edition of which is entitled Ness of Brodgar: Digging Deeper.

This can be bought online, at the site shop and at bookshops in Orkney but we have to warn you, it is selling fast. It is also remarkably cheap and every single penny from sales goes directly to excavation funds, making it affordable, useful and guaranteed to help the work at the Ness.

Until tomorrow…