Dig Diary – Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Day Eighteen

Dr Mike Copper, supervisor of Trench Y, racking his brains for an answer.

Dr Mike Copper, supervisor of Trench Y, racking his brains for an answer to the mystifying sequence of events.


Y, oh Y, oh Y!

Emmanuelle planning a feature at the top of Trench T.

Emmanuelle planning a feature at the top of Trench T.

We begin today with Trench Y, which started off with high hopes, quickly became troublesome and has continued in that manner with dogged determination.

The sequence of events in this trench is mystifying as the shillety stones which have appeared do not add up to anything coherent and the putative wall is no nearer being discovered.

There is usually a remedy for this sort of problem.

Site director Nick and the trench supervisor and team get together and chew over the issue and possible solutions. Mostly, something useful emerges, but not this time.

Digging in Trench Y will continue in hopes of finding the wall, or even of making sense of what is emerging, but hopes for the wall are beginning to fade and, if that is the case, we have more problems.

If there never were long walls at the east and west sides of Trench P, what on earth do the two existing and parallel walls signify?

Do they define something between them (the current trenches, minus Trench T), or do they define something on their other sides, where there is certainly lots of archaeology currently mostly unexplored?

Time will tell…we hope.

A blocked passageway?

Alison with her bone-toggle from Trench T.

Alison with her bone-toggle from Trench T.

Almost as puzzling is the attempt to work out the relationship between Structure Twelve and Structure Twenty-Six.

The sequence of events there is turning out to be a nightmare, if a stimulating and exciting one.

Structure Twenty-Six itself is a challenge as bits of it appears to have been cobbled together from parts of other buildings. Moreover, some of it seems to have been dug into the existing midden, while other parts pre-date the midden.

Today Travis (of the pottery fame) and Peter have been removing more midden and they have uncovered what may be a blocked passageway.

Is it from Structure Twelve, leading into an annexe, a porch, a small structure or another building altogether?

Just to complicate matters, some of the little sections of wall in the robbing trench of Structure Ten could be related to the new discovery. Again, time will tell. Again, we hope.

Valuable find in Trench T

A close-up of Alison's bone-toggle.

A close-up of Alison’s bone-toggle.

Much of the soil and midden at the Ness is acidic and this has not helped the preservation of bone which can range from not-very-good condition to a sort of squidgy mush which is a nightmare to excavate.

This makes all the more valuable the very nice little bone toggle, found by Alison, which emerged in excellent condition this morning from Trench T. 

As the trench has obviously had different episodes of midden deposition, it may be that there are other areas of soil or midden which might not be so acidic and which may hold bone artefacts in good condition.

Perhaps more interestingly, something curious has appeared at the very bottom of Trench T.

It consists at the moment of little areas of very poor walling and it is likely that only a small section is present in the trench. What might they signify?

Well, there is a possibility, although somewhat remote, that they might be something from the Bronze Age – possibly even a revetted cairn.

The area will be carefully planned and photographed before more investigation tomorrow.

Beginner’s guide to decorated stone?

The suspected incised slab from the Trench J extension.

The suspected incised slab from the Trench J extension.

Lastly, the extension to Trench J has revealed some paving and also a stone which seems to have rather rough and crude incisions. As Nick says, perhaps a beginner’s guide to Neolithic decorative incisions.

All in all, a fascinating, frustrating but deeply satisfying day.

We’ll have more tomorrow.

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