Dig diary – Monday, July 19, 2010

And another season at the Ness is under way and again the gods seem to be shining down on us – blessing us with almost the perfect weather to start the dig. It definitely has inspired the team to Herculean efforts (many thanks to one and all) and, by lunchtime, all the protective covers had been removed to reveal what seems like instantaneous archaeology.

For those who had not seen the site before, they seemed taken aback as the structures were revealed before their very eyes.

Even those who had seen it all before, and whose last memory of the site last year was through horizontal rain and gales, were equally mesmerized as it was once again opened up, and with thoughts of what the next six weeks may hold in store. Watch this space!

Guided tours will start on Wednesday (11am and 3pm, Monday to Friday) so please come along to have it all explained. And with a new visitor attraction – a viewing platform (kindly provided by Historic Scotland) now being constructed on site – we are sure you won’t be disappointed!

Some thoughts from two of those present on site today…

Wouter Verschoof, BA (Leiden University)

We finally started!

Being an archaeology student from the Netherlands (Wouter Verschoof, BA (Leiden University), where there are only different colors of dirt, it is sort of a dream to excavate at a site filled with stone structures! Especially such monumental structures like here at the Ness of Brodgar.

Most of the time you only read about sites like this in books, fantasising about, one day, excavating one of your own. But now the dream has come true!

After a long trip from Leiden, through London and Edinburgh, all the way up to Kirkwall, we are finally here for three weeks of Orcadian archaeology.

The first day of the dig started with some nice, sunny weather. Most of the morning was filled with removing bags of dirt and sheets of plastic that have kept the site safe throughout the winter. With every bag you remove a little more of the site is revealed. A wonderful feeling! The rest of the day we will further clean up the site and tomorrow will start with some proper archaeology!

Claire Pencak, choreographer

I (Claire Pencak, choreographer) am leading a team of creative artists over a four-day “lab”.

Our focus of interest is the process of archeology – what happens on the site, the activities, and how, or whether, this can be applied, in any way, to performance-making and the act of performance.

I see in the glint in the eyes of the archeologists, their delight at finally being out of the office and in the place that they feel most at home – the site. This is the delight of being in the studio, working with dancers, composers, visual artists. The site/the studio is the place where we become most ourselves, even if the work is slow and difficult some days.

With an untrained eye, I am struggling to see, or make sense of, what lies beneath the surface – these pieces of stone that are piercing the surface. Clearly, the archeologists have no problem with reading these indications, seeing potential amidst the rubble.

In the same way as when bodies begin to move in the space, I can see that if I throw light on that in a particular way, or throw it into shadow, layer it with a sound world, contextualise it, give it a ‘world’ in which to live in, then it can become a living, breathing form.

First impressions of the site are of a space that has defined “walkways” that allows for movement around the site and across the site. Pathways that define how we understand the site physically, how we view the site. I shall be intrigued, over the next few days, to see how this changes and transforms, as new areas are opened up for interpretation.

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