Dig Diary – Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Cleaning rocks in the hot sun . . .
The diary has a real problem today. By the end of many hours in the hot Orkney sun, it is hard enough to cudgel the brain into remembering your own name, far less fashioning elegant archaeological prose with correct spelling throughout.
As readers will see (below) this is not a problem for Jan, who has toiled on Structure Ten surfaces hot enough to fry an egg; who has worn out her boots and cut her hand, but who still emerges rhapsodising about sedge warblers and swans.
It is all mightily impressive and we promise to bring you more, much more, of Jan as soon as possible.
The archaeology was also interesting, at least those elements of it which could be glimpsed through the heat haze.
The day started with one of site director Nick’s popular site tours, where he introduces the team to the latest thinking on all the structures.
It was drizzling at the time and questions were few and far between, although the new radiocarbon dates, enhanced by Bayesian analysis (it’s too hot to explain; we’ll tell you about it at a later date), brought out new and intriguing possibilities.
And then the sun came out, together with the sedge warblers, the swans and many non-biting midges.
Nick held discussions with various area supervisors to hammer out the programme for the coming days and, in the structures, the spring-cleaning of the various surfaces continued.
This is a light-touch process, but careful trowelling brings out the different colours and contexts in the ground, which were formed originally by differential dumping of midden material.
In and around the various areas, the BBC team continued filming, with Neil Oliver, and particular attention was given to our bone expert, Ingrid, who discussed isotopic analysis of cattle teeth to determine their origin, among other things.
The BBC is kindly providing the funds for this analysis and it will undoubtedly complement the work of Mike Parker Pearson on cattle at Stonehenge. Fingers crossed for the results, which are expected soon.
Further BBC generosity is being lavished on a beginning-of-dig celebration, which will follow immediately after today’s work.
Obviously, we cannot report on this as it has yet to happen. All we can say is that the sedge warblers may not get much sleep tonight.
Can we remind all of you out there in the archaeosphere that the guidebook for the Ness is available online at a ridiculously low price.
This will enable everyone who can’t get to the Ness site to follow what is happening, in conjunction with the daily diary.
All profits go to excavation funds and the necessary link is http://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/shop
From the Trenches
Another beautiful day in Orkney on site at the Ness of Brodgar . . . and where else would you rather be?
Sedge warblers serenading us as we empty the wheelbarrows and swans swimming serenely through the wind-blown ripples moving across in Harray Loch, pushed by a gentle breeze. The dulcet tones of Roy as he relates to eager visitors the tale of what we know so far about this enigmatic place and the sounds of diggers hard at work to find out more.
I would be nowhere else!
Finally, we have finished uncovering the structures so carefully shrouded at the end of last season and are getting on with the job – excavating, measuring, photographing and drawing.
Our purpose? To find out more about the lives of the people, just like us, who lived in Neolithic Orkney.
This first week is the time you find out if your gloves are as waterproof as they claim to be; if your work trousers can stay up without a belt and if your boots are still as comfortable as before.
I have discovered that I need a belt this year and unfortunately, my boots have decided that they have worked hard enough and need a rest.
Jim, kindly stuck them together with copious amounts of insulating tape, and Ann helpfully wrote some directions on the tape to help me negotiate my way around the site (as if I don’t know after ten years of coming up!)
There does appear to be a slight error . . . but I don’t think Nick noticed.
The BBC are on site again today filming in Structure Twelve, discussing the quality and fine workmanship of the building stones, but work at the Ness goes on as usual and we are all looking forward to an exciting and magical season at the Ness of Brodgar.
Signing off for now … Jan