Dig Diary – Whale vertebra found in one of two new Structure Five post-holes
Friday, August 5, 2022
No sooner do you find one pair of post-holes than another pair comes along!
No, this is not a hallowed old archaeological truism, but it is exactly what happened in Structure Five today.
We have already told you about the two large post-holes which framed the interior of the building’s original entrance. Presumably they helped to hold up the heavy roof, but they would also have been quite imposing.
There was some suspicion among the team that two more post-holes could possibly be found to the south of the entrance post-holes, and on both sides of the building.
And this afternoon, there they were.
Sara found the first one and it turned out to be one of the largest post-holes we have seen. Even better, it contained a large piece of whalebone vertebrae. Although the bone was not in the best of condition, and in a tight and difficult position, it was successfully lifted and will now be sent off for conservation and analysis.
Directly opposite, on the other side of the structure, Claire found another large post-hole, this time without the whalebone but which contained a decorated stone block with a cup-marked rosette motif.
Could there be others? We will see.
In Trench T, more of the magnificent northern wall of Structure Twenty-Seven was exposed, although progress was a little slowed due to the difficulties of dealing with the multiple robber horizons and events.
We hoped to have the south-western corner revealed by the end of work today and it is fully expected that it will match the opposing corner in confirming the slight, but beautifully constructed, cushion shape to this extraordinary building.
Work continued in the interior of the building and it is likely that the natural ponding which gathered in the extensively robbed and unroofed building will soon be resolved in order to allow access to the original floors.
The Willamettes have accomplished a huge amount in Structure Twenty-Seven but next week they will have to buckle down to the traditional joys of drawing and planning all that they have revealed for an end-of-season plan of the trench. Commiserations!
What is Structure Twenty-Seven?
We still can’t say. Site director Nick has previously pointed out that it has some similarities with the nearby, but much smaller, Bookan chambered cairn, which he excavated years ago, but he believes Twenty-Seven is not a tomb.
But other elements are completely different so the role of Structure Twenty-Seven, by any measure one of the most beautifully constructed buildings we have ever come across, must remain a mystery for now.
In Structure One, only the central secondary phase orthostat remains. Although it needs to be removed to reveal more of the primary phase northern hearth, more careful thought is required as to the actual practicalities of doing this. It is much larger and heavier than the two so far removed and will need special care and attention to safely extract it .
Micromorphologist Dr Jo McKenzie has been taking more samples from the southern half of the primary floors of Structure One after discussions with Nick and the building’s supervisor Andy. There is something of a puzzle at the north end where the expected floor deposits are missing and where there seems to be, instead, a very large depth of midden revealed in the construction slots for the two removed orthostats.
Current thinking suggests that the structure, like its neighbour Structure Fourteen, may have been partially cut into and built into an existing midden, but this begs the question of why its walls are as vertical as they are if the foundation deposits are as soft as they seem?
In Structure Ten, work is continuing at a necessarily slow pace due to the delicate nature of the floors but Cecily, who painstakingly flots, sorts and assesses our samples, has discovered that a deposit discovered by Julia earlier in the season has many tiny fragments of burnt hazelnut shells.
That could be very useful for dating part of Structure Ten but it will have to wait for another day.
In the meantime we are all heading off for a weekend of deep and satisfying rest.
See you on Monday.