Finds, floors and a film premiere!
Dig Diary – Day Twenty
Friday, July 23, 2021
The Ness has had many notable “firsts” but today we became one of the very, very few archaeological sites worldwide to host a film premiere.
Unsurprisingly, the film is all about the Ness.
It’s the product of our remarkable Artist in Residence, Dr Karen Wallis, who arrived for a brief visit in 2016 and has continued to document the work here ever since.
She has produced countless black-and-white and coloured sketches of the site and of the people working; in sunshine and in showers and, on one notable occasion, in a howling gale of wind and rain.
That is impressive enough, but Karen has also recorded the ordinary sounds of digging; the scrape of a trowel, rustling paper, the noise of our drones, the cries of delight at the arrival of sugary and sustaining food, and even the squeaking of our notorious noisy wheelbarrow.
All of this has been woven together to produce a wonderful filmic account of the essence of a site and the people who populate it, illuminating the parts of archaeological endeavour which some television documentaries fail to reach.
And the premiere? One of our site trailers was decked out with red and gold cloth and a red-carpet (crepe paper) welcomed the audience of diggers for their hour-long treat.
If we are very lucky we may have another chance to see the film on television, perhaps at an Orkney festival or through archaeological clubs and societies around the country.
In the meantime, as a taster, an earlier edit of work in progress can be viewed here.
Meanwhile, in Structure Ten today Mandy had an almost impossible task.
Some sherds of pottery had appeared in an area previously occupied by a corner buttress, which had itself been erected during the re-build of the structure after slumping and collapse had set in.
Having been under the weight of the buttress the pot was not in good condition. Mandy and supervisor Sinead worked hard and creatively, including fashioning an implement to slide under the pot from an ice-cream tub, but the pot could only be recovered in bits.
This is not a tragedy. We can still see the applied cordon decoration on the exterior and once it dries and is cleaned we will be able to tell much more about its construction and, possibly, use.
Other areas of Structure Ten were given a good clean in preparation for a series of photographs and this revealed new details in the primary yellow clay floor. These include orthostatic slots which show where earlier “furniture” or divisions had been placed, and removed.
Unfortunately for the Structure Ten team, all of their carefully positioned grid lines were taken down for the photographic session and all had to replaced.
In Trench J, Paul has been busy taking 700-plus photographs from which he will create another of his fascinating 3D models.
Conditions were not ideal as the morning sun insisted on throwing shadows which did not help the process, but when it is finished Paul’s model will feature on the website. Until then, to see the progress made in Trench J, you can still view earlier models from 2019 and 2018.
Structure Twelve has had a quiet but productive day which suddenly became much better when Gianluca uncovered a very nice little thumb-pot.
Actually, we make a distinction with these little artefacts of which we have a reasonable number now. If they are fairly crude we call them thumb-pots, but if they are carefully formed and even have decoration we call them miniature vessels. This one may fall into the miniature vessel category.
Among the visitors on site today were two eminent archaeologists – Professor Colin Richards, of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, and Professor Niall Sharples from the University of Cardiff.
Among his many accomplishments Colin discovered, and excavated, the nearby Barnhouse Settlement and excavated at the Stonehall, Wideford Hill, Smerquoy and Crossiecrown Neolithic settlements. Most recently he worked on Neolithic structures at Catasand in Sanday.
Niall has worked extensively in the Western Isles and in Orkney. He supervised at the original Links of Noltland excavation, in Westray, in 1981, together with a very young Nick Card.
Today is the last day on site for Structure Twelve supervisor Jim, and for Trench J supervisor, Paul. Both have other archaeological tasks forthcoming but they have been brilliant and we hope (no, demand) that they come back next year.
They will be replaced by Clare in Structure Twelve and Chris in Trench J.
Have a good weekend.