Reconstruction drawing – man explaining Structure Twelve leaks

By Cecily Webster

Man explains leaks in Structure Twelve. (Cecily Webster)
Man explains leaks in Structure Twelve. (Cecily Webster)

Structure Twelve had structural problems at various points – likely including roof leaks as the heavy slab tiles levered away from each other and subsequent discolouration of any wash used on the inside.

That said, it is possible that only walls or internal screens were daubed and the bare slates and caulking of the roof were covered with hide, or textile, hangings on the inside as in domestic structures of similar type elsewhere in the world.

The only thing against this theory is that the crowded, multi-fire feasting activities going on in the buildings would probably make less insulation desirable rather than more.

It is possible the inside of the roof was painted more colourfully, potentially supporting stories likely to have been told within the building. But since we do not know those myths, or possess remnants of what would have been thin pigment layers from high up, I have left those places simply white to increase the reach of light within.

This man is discussing the urgent need for repair – probably with limited resource and labour availability before the start of the next ceremonial cycle – that resulted in the slapdash remodelling of one end of Structure Twelve.

This man is dressed more casually but still respectfully for the space, including paint which acknowledges he is going visiting – although his kin might have a claim to this shared hearth, it is not his house and not all those with whom it is shared are living humans.

He wears a tunic, leggings and loincloth, as it is past summer, and may have left a sewn gut- or straw-work waterproof at the door. He will not bring garments of fish skin or birds seen more often on the water than above it to this site, as all evidence shows it is a cattle place.  The designs are again taken from the stone and pottery examples, rendered large.

His tunic is fringed for practical purposes at the base but decorated with red woollen threads at the collar/reinforcement area to indicate that he and the maker, likely his wife, have the resources to do so. His cuffs, headband and belt-buckle are of woven reed or root and he carries a knife and a bag of tinder and/or talisman at his belt.

The roofbeams of ceremonial sites elsewhere are usually carved and/or painted, right down to modern places of worship, so I have depicted the imported or driftwood beams as such. The patterns again follow the stonework and pottery.

The floor is a more careful and even yellow than what survives today and wedged into the corner is the clay oven posited to be the source of the huge amounts of burnt clay and ashes to be found in that area of Structure Twelve. It may have produced loaves on loaves to soak up dripping and broth at the feasts, or some of the beautiful, yet poorly-fired, pottery, whose only use may have been a single special event – its creation at the Ness more significant than its contents.

The walls I have left plain, as the long buildings have shown no sign of painting and in this off-season any hangings or screens would be in storage or piled up on the platforms in other alcoves.

Knowing so little about the genetics of the Ness people, this fellow is drawn dark-haired and of an average brown, his features loosely based on a skull from the Tomb of the Eagles. One of the man’s eyes is heavily cataracted from scarring, as in a pre-antibiotic and pre-camera world the marks of surviving an injury and the consequent likelihood of infection would likely be considered normal and possibly impressive.

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