Dig Diary – Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Day Thirteen

The mystery object will be revealed – but tomorrow (maybe)

Trench T, in all its splendour this afternoon.

Trench T, in all its splendour this afternoon.


Alice, the finder of our mystery object yesterday. But what was it? All to be revealed tomorrow (perhaps).

Yesterday, we were guilty of teasing you all, a little, with hints of something really interesting that we would reveal today.

Unfortunately, while the mystery object remains really interesting — in fact even more so — we still can’t tell you about it until probably tomorrow. We just need some other expert opinions.

So, what could it be?

Let’s just say that last week we described a pot which links the Ness of Brodgar to the famous site of Durrington Walls in England.

We now have something else which links the Ness to the south — but it is even more unusual, indeed unique. Honest!

But back to today…

Although the weather was sunny, it was excessively windy. Fortunately, Trench T has a modicum of shelter, due to its depth, and it continues to produce excellent archaeology.

Some of our University of the Highlands and Islands students are to be found in Trench T, working on the placement element of their courses.

Site supervisor Dave has nothing but praise for them — indeed we wish they would all stay on for a few more weeks.

One of them, Katie, has found a lovely flint scraper and, further down towards the bottom of the trench the team of Torstein and Lewke have been emptying the remaining half of one of the enigmatic Neolithic pits which cluster there.

Lewke and Torstein and the new orthostat projecting from the middens.

Katie with her large flint scraper.

This particular pit has already been cut in half by our earlier sondage (deep, planned excavation/hole) through the bottom of the trench.

But to site director Nick’s amazement, hints of another massive, recumbent orthostat has emerged, poking through the edge of the hole.

It is roughly parallel to the one which was thought to form the end of Structure Twenty-Seven, but seems to be heading in a different direction.

Although it seems, at first glance, to be a replica of one of the earlier ones, it may well be bigger, thicker and deeper — how does it fit in with the other orthostats? Only time and more excavation will tell.

Further up the trench, where Jair and Liam are uncovering more of another recumbent orthostat, they have discovered some of the orthostatic “cladding” which lay at the back of it.

This is interesting as in other areas it seems to have been ripped out, but here they have been snapped off.

Jair reveals some snapped-off orthostats behind another recumbent orthostat!

At the top of Trench T, further dating evidence has emerged for the presumed Iron Age ditch and bank.

Mai has uncovered a large rim and body sherd from the rubble which features a flat-topped rim (which could be Bronze Age or Iron Age), but which has the beginning of a globular or semi-globular body profile.

This should definitely be Iron Age and is certainly not Neolithic Grooved Ware which is almost all straight-sided or bucket shaped.

Our visitors today included one of our most regular supporters, Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Liam McArthur.

Liam has proposed motions of support for the Ness in Holyrood, for which we are very grateful, but he also turns up to help with the backfilling of the site and its covering at the end of the season.

Liam McArthur MSP gets the low-down on developments at the Ness from site director Nick.

He is generally known as “two-tyres McArthur” for his exploits in that respect — although some suspect it is an attempt to lengthen his arms (he is a well-known football goalkeeper in Orkney).

We mentioned yesterday the butterfly motifs on a blocking stone from the southern entrance of Structure Twelve, and today the BBC arrived to interview our decorated stone expert, Dr Antonia Thomas.

Elsewhere on site a remarkable photograph has emerged. It is often assumed that structure supervisors are very possessive of their own structures. They are.

But here we have evidence of the contrary, with Andy (Structure Eight) and Sarah (Structure Ten) happily co-existing and discussing the complexities of aforementioned Structure Eight.

Don’t let anyone tell you that photographs can’t lie.

Shortly after, a furious argument broke out and Sarah pushed Andy into a ditch. (We made that bit up).

Sarah and Andy collaborate on the floors of Structure Eight.

We have, as usual, looked at the weather forecast for tomorrow and it is not promising. There is certainly wind and perhaps a lot of rain.

If you are planning to visit us tomorrow, come equipped.

It is possible that diggers will be absent as the site becomes dangerously slippy when very wet, although tours will continue as usual and supervisors will continue to pretend to do paperwork (as usual) in the huts and portacabins.

But before we go a few words of thanks to Orkney Zero Waste for some delicious snacks and assorted goodies for the team; Andrew Appleby’s donations of boxes of fruit; and a fantastic return visit from Walker Ryan, the Blues maestro, who serenaded us all again with some classic tracks — thank you all.

Until tomorrow…

Trench T - a hive of activity (that is also sometimes sheltered from the wind).

Trench T – a hive of activity (that is also sometimes sheltered from the wind).

Work continues in the small extension to Trench P, over Structure Twenty-Six.

Work continues in the small extension to Trench P, over Structure Twenty-Six.

Structure One, with the paved central 'plaza' and standing stone directly to the right.

Structure One, with the paved central ‘plaza’ and standing stone directly to the right.

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