Dig Diary – Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Day Three

The crowds gathering on site this morning for the 11am tour with Roy. (Sigurd Towrie)

Plagued by wind and rain…

Once the covers were completely off, it was time to clean the site – in pouring rain and blowing gales. (Emily O’Farrell)

In most of Britain the sun is shining. In the United States some folk are suffering a heatwave and in Europe the frazzled survivors are emerging from caves and shelters in search of water.

In Orkney it is raining. And raining. And raining. Oh, and lest we forget, the rain is being hurried along by an angry wind.

In short, it is miserable.

Throughout it all our diggers soldier on, removing the last of the covers on the site today and beginning the task of tiding up the structures, cutting the overhanging grass from the edges of the trenches and generally prettifying the Ness.

Director Nick surveys a newly uncovered, but soaking wet, Trench P this afternoon – just before we gave up on photography as it was impossible to keep the rain off the lens. (Emily O’Farrell)

We, the archaeologists, like to think of ourselves as tough (relatively) outdoor folk braving tempests and typhoons for the sake of our wonderful site. 

The truth is slightly different.

Yes, our team are pretty tough, and endlessly willing to put themselves forward for unpleasant tasks, but there is no better place in bad weather (other than, of course, a warm room with a cup of tea), than an archaeological trench. You are hunched low and the worst of the weather whistles over your head.

Cleaning in Trench P, by Structure Fourteen. (Emily O’Farrell)

The real heroes of archaeology turned up in droves at the Ness today. These are our visitors, the tourists who pour into Orkney in the summer, the archaeology fans who arrive en masse, the dedicated Ness supporters and the local Orcadians who appreciate all that the Ness means to Orkney.

Today at 11am was the first tour of the 2019 excavation season and we were simply amazed at the number of visitors who arrived.

Uncovering Structure Eight earlier in the morning – when the weather was slightly better. (Sigurd Towrie)

Despite the rain and wind over 150 people went on the first tour, and these were not people to huddle miserably and to frown at the Ness from under their cagoules.

No, they asked questions, dozens of them, all intelligent, and stuck it out until the end of the line at Trench T where they were still firing questions.

We really appreciate them, partly, of course, because they buy books and other articles in the site shop, sponsor site squares by the hundred and make donations, all of which is the life-blood of our site where funds are always a problem.

But most of all we appreciate them because they are really interested in archaeology and what we do, and there is no greater compliment.

Over 150 visitors gather around Roy for the first site tour of the 2019 season. (Sigurd Towrie)

So, friends and visitors, we salute you and want you to keep coming.

On that subject, quite apart from our free tours at 11am, 1pm and 3pm, the Octobus organisation is now running three tours a day from Kirkwall to the Ness. This is especially useful for those visitors who don’t have cars – click here for details.

Looking ahead, site director Nick has some exciting plans for the coming days.

Despite the atrocious weather, there were still smiles from Sierra and Aaron in Trench J. (Sigurd Towrie)

Next week he will carry out an extension to Trench X where he hopes to find out more about the post-hole structure was noted in 2017.

Most exciting of all, there will be two small extensions to the enigmatic Structure Twenty-Seven in Trench T which might reveal the corners, and perhaps even the entrance area, of this most puzzling building.

Before that we have to get through tomorrow when the weather forecast is not good. We will still run tours but it is unlikely at the moment that there will be any diggers on site as the site becomes slippy and hazardous in really wet weather.

They can stay home and eat the bananas kindly supplied by Andrew Appleby, for which many thanks.

Until tomorrow.