Reduced Ness team head east for Bronze Age fieldwalk
Diggers and Finds Team volunteers come from far and wide to excavate the Ness of Brodgar but there is also a core of folk in Orkney who give their summers to the site.
On Wednesday afternoon, eight of that team gathered – not at the Ness where the covers and tyres are still in place – but out in Deerness, the most easterly parish of Mainland Orkney.
We were there to walk a ploughed and harrowed field in which two low howies/tumuli/hummocks/mounds have been recorded since the Ordnance Survey First Edition mapping of Orkney in 1881. The field owner was happy for us to be there and in smooring, Orkney rain, we socially distanced, at five metres, and walked up and down the field.
The ploughing had revealed two intensely black patches where the mapped rises are, where the earth is burnt to the point of soot. When the field was first ploughed Nick, Anne and Jan had a good look, very carefully navigating the plough furrows (you could damage an ankle badly!) and, in liaison, with county archaeologist Julie Gibson, agreed further examination was needed.
So, on Wednesday, we were each armed with finds bags and wired flags and as we walked, one of us and then another and then another would stop, put something in a bag, push the wired flag through the bag and into the ground. Chris and Kevin followed behind, and with GPS took the exact co-ordinates of the find spot.
Walking the field was definitely sticky-boot work after extreme rain the previous day. But rain shows up material which would be lost on a dry day and three hours later we had that Christmas morning experience of watching what came out of the bags – some hammer stones, a grinder stone, a flint core, and eight features in the field – bigger and smaller – surveyed and recorded. Geophysics scans of those will come later.
Drone photos will also be added to the field’s record and some samples of the intensely burnt soil were bagged up for future reference. There was lots of burnt, cracked stone in the field too, but we found nothing of prehistoric domestic life, and nothing of burial either.
The consensus is that Bronze Age activity took place in the field, because of the presence of the two burnt mounds and because of other geographical and archaeological discoveries in the surrounding landscape.
For more on Orkney’s Bronze Age, click here.
But, the joy of the Wednesday was being out and doing archaeology – finding it, thinking about, discussing it and getting dirty in it.
We are all missing the Ness in 2020, but for Gary, Jan, Sigurd, Anne, Kevin, Cecily, Chris and Einar, being together, even five metres apart from one another, was pure pleasure.
We look forward even more to being able to meet up with all the rest in 2021, funds and Covid 19 permitting.