Objects of beauty and a mission accomplished
Dig Diary – Day Twenty-Seven
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Imagine the situation.
At your feet are probably the only two examples of Neolithic timber inside a structure and in a secure context found in Orkney to date.
They have the potential to unlock many mysteries of the Ness – how old is the wood? (and by extension securing a date for Structure Twelve). What type is it? Is it a species that was once found locally or had it been brought in or washed ashore?
The person who had to recover these two extremely rare samples of prehistoric wood faced an unenviable task.
Today that role fell to our micromorphologist Jo, who – as we knew she would – handled it with aplomb.
So far one of the two wooden “stakes” has been safely and expertly recovered. We won’t go into too much detail here as there will (hopefully) be a video along later in which Jo explains the process.
But it was interesting to note that the smaller of the two stakes had a beautifully square base and rested on a flat stone at the bottom of the post-hole, which presumably acted as a cushion.
Well done Jo!
The rest of the action around Twelve today – aside from Sigurd fretting over floor deposits in the north end – took place outside the building.
At the south-western corner, Melvyn and Peter were working in the area surrounding another spot where the site-spanning mega-drain may have collapsed in antiquity.
They are trying to clarify what happened in that corner of the trench and in the process of giving it a good tidy up Peter found what finds supervisor Anne described as “the most beautiful ceramic find of the year.”
High praise indeed. But the sherd is indeed truly spectacular.
It is the rim of quite a small, but well-fired, pot and features fine serpentine incised decoration about five millimetres below the top.
At the north-western corner of Structure Twelve, Jenna and Andy have been revealing more rubble which is probably from the partial collapse of the building. But there’s a possibility that apparent wall courses may relate to Structure Twenty-Eight – Twelve’s predecessor.
The jury’s out, however.
Site director Nick is not convinced given that the possible walling is too high in relation to Structure Twelve’s floor levels. But, as he freely admits, Nick’s been wrong before so we’ll watch developments here with interest.
Over in Trench J, Colin is clearing the blocked-up south-eastern entrance of Structure Five – no easy task given the size of the stones used to seal the doorway. Hopefully as the area is emptied we can get a glimpse of what this entrance led into.
In Structure Thirty-Two, another spread of ash appeared – slightly to the west of the area excavated and planned last week.
Excavation work in Structure Ten continues apace. Working in this highly complex building requires meticulous excavation and recording and the team are doing a sterling job.
Travis found a pot sherd to the north of the building today, while Lisa continued working in the robber cut (a hole cut into the building in prehistory to find and remove stone) and will be planning it soon.
In a post-hole to the north-west of the interior, Jem found a red sandstone dressing flake. It’s been a while since we encountered one of these and it could relate to the spectacular red and yellow sandstone dresser that once graced the interior of the building.
Talking of red sandstone, we had an object of rare beauty on site today.
Regular readers will know that Chris, who is supervising in Trench J, is a bit of a dab hand at creating replicas of Neolithic stone objects.
Visitors to our open days over the past few years may have seen him producing polished stone axes, creating decorated and painted slabs and replicating maceheads.
Today he arrived on site with an incredible carved stone ball he has made.
Fashioned from red sandstone, and with six protrusions, it is truly a sight to behold.
Chris has very kindly donated the petrosphere to us and we are considering how to make the most of it to raise funds for the excavation.
There will be discussions tomorrow, so watch this space.
For now, it’s time to sign off. There’s a day’s worth of video that needs editing…
See you tomorrow.