Dig Diary – Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Day Eighteen

Will it ever stop? Roy with some hardy site visitors during this morning’s tour. (Jo Bourne)

Thunder, lightning and no excavation!

Rain or shine. Our tours go on, regardless of the weather. (Jo Bourne)

What can we say of today, except…ugh!

To be fair it is not just today to blame;  Tuesday night as well as this morning were characterised by drenching incessant rain, rumbling thunder and violent flashes of lightning.

Site director Nick took the sensible decision to tell the diggers to have the day off and we are sure they were grateful.

Quite apart from their wellbeing, the site quickly became puddled and slippy and would have been dangerous (and destructive) to walk upon.

The metal viewing platform was also closed. We are not sure if our insurance covers lightning-zapped visitors.

Heartiest congratulations, therefore, to the eighteen people who turned up for a tour of the site in the most appalling rain just before midday. Not all were young.

As the wind and rain thrash the site outside, Hannah and Linda catch up with paperwork in the supervisor’s hut. (Jo Bourne)

Without exception they were wringing wet and every single one stuck it out for over an hour until the end.

Clearly, there is a new, tough breed of tourists visiting Orkney this year.

There are benefits to even days like this.

The supervisors have a rare chance to take themselves out of the trenches and to settle down in the cosy portakabins to catch up on paperwork, sorting out contexts and cross-referencing data of all sorts.

Much the same applies to the finds team. 

Finds have been lacking a little this season, almost entirely due to the weather, but the appalling morning gave Anne and her team a chance to pack the existing finds safely, to cross-reference the various data sheets and to prepare everything for transfer to the specialists who will analyse the various elements of material culture.

Tish in the finds hut… (Jo Bourne)

We mentioned yesterday the extraordinarily fine little decorated pottery rim discovered by Jo in Structure Eight.

We have been thinking a little more deeply about this find and we wonder if it may indicate the presence of a range of small, fine and possibly prestigious vessels which we have not fully recognised thus far.

Part of the impetus for these thoughts is the work of Cecily, the eagle-eyed young lady who sieves and flots the Ness bulk samples and then sifts through the resulting residues (after the carbonised material has been skimmed off), for anything which the diggers may have (understandably) missed.

…alongside Kate. (Jo Bourne)

One element of the recent work back in the Kirkwall labs was to assess the pottery from the occupation levels of Structure Fourteen, in the course of which Cecily delivered the material she had separated from the samples obtained from the building.

Amongst those were a few fine and exceptional sherds which bear a resemblance to Jo’s find from Structure Eight.

It is far too early to say anything definitive about this as we will need more examples and, hopefully, some dating material. Nevertheless, it is significant that the Ness has already produced original ceramics, as in the case of the tongue-and-groove cordoned pottery and the Grooved Ware with applied colour.

Tomorrow, we are assured, will be bright and sunny from start to finish.

We are not sure if we believe this and will bring waterproofs anyway.

Until tomorrow…