Structure Eight’s second polished ‘pillow stone’

Diary – Tuesday, August 12, 2020
Day Twenty-Seven

2011: Sarah reveals that the hearth in Structure Ten, despite suffering from subsidence, was indeed complete. (ORCA)

2011: Sarah reveals that the hearth in Structure Ten, despite suffering from subsidence, was indeed complete. (ORCA)

The size and grandeur of Structure Ten continued to get clearer on this day in 2011.

The pick-dressed side pillar from 'dresser'.

2011: The peck-dressed side pillar from Structure Ten’s ‘dresser’. (ORCA)

The secondary insertions and wall lines in the building’s interior were now beginning to form cells and recesses along the northern wall. Meanwhile, the large, central hearth was found to be complete. We had thought the hearthstones had fallen victim to stone robbing but it had actually slumped into the earlier structures beneath.

At the robbed-out entrance, mentioned yesterday, some large blocks of stone emerged, thought to be remains of the basal courses of the lost entrance. These fitted perfectly with an east-west orientated entrance passage and corresponded to a change visible in the section behind.

2014: The pillow stone within its stone setting. (ORCA)

2014: The pillow stone within its stone setting. (ORCA)

Over in Structure One, it seemed we might have evidence that the hearth had once been “painted”.

The top edge of one of the hearth stones has a red deposit on it that was clearly neither ash nor heat-affected stone. Given the incised decoration noted on a hearth in Structure Fourteen and the fact the central hearths in Neolithic structures were an important focus, it is not difficult to imagine them being embellished and emphasised.

2014: The ‘polished pillow stone’ from Structure Eight. (ORCA)

August 11, 2014, saw another example of new type of worked-stone artefact emerge from Structure Eight.

The rose-red object was part of a stone setting to one side of the building’s southern hearth. It was definitely not an axe or macehead but termed a “pillow stone” due to its shape. What was it for? We’re not sure – but there’s a splendid summary here.

2014: The two Structure Eight pillow stones reunited. (ORCA)

2014: The two Structure Eight pillow stones reunited. (ORCA)

It turned out be in a poor condition, with the lower half eaten away by an unknown process, perhaps a reaction of some component of the stone with something in the surrounding midden material.

A very similar stone, if not its finer twin, was found in Structure Eight on August 3, 2011.

West of Structure One, excavation in Structure Twenty-One revealed a very nicely defined pier. This showed the building’s orientation – running roughly east-west – was markedly different to the other piered structures in Trench P.

2014: Andy and Lesley-Ann expose more of the pier in Structure Twenty-One. (ORCA)

2014: Andy and Lesley-Ann expose more of the pier in Structure Twenty-One. (ORCA)

2015: Ground stone knife. (ORCA)

In 2015, two fascinating stone tools emerged from Structure Ten within the space of 60 minutes!

A very fine example of a ground stone knife was found in the robber cut in the south-west corner, followed shortly afterwards by a bevelled-edge stone disc from the paved passageway to the west of the building.

2015: The decorated stone disc from the passageway surrounding Structure Ten. (ORCA)

As if that was not enough, the disc turned out to have finely incised decoration — an exceedingly rare example of a decorated stone tool.

2015: Tori’s smile says it all, with her discovery of the drain parallel to the wall in Trench T. (ORCA)

In Trench T, the clues suggesting we had an important, and very large, building were beginning to stack up.

Work in one of the pits adjacent to a wall at the bottom of the trench revealed a beautifully built, stone drain running parallel to the wall.

2015: Inside the newly discovered, and beautifully constructed, drain in Trench T. (ORCA)

Drains of this sort are usually outside a building, or they may be in the entrance to the building. Whatever the drain’s function, it suggested there was a large, finely built structure at the bottom of the trench.

But, more was to come.

Thirty minutes later, a very large orthostat had emerged, together with what may be the very badly robbed remains of another wall. It seemed we did indeed have another substantial building, but one which has been sealed under huge quantities of midden, which was a precious commodity to the people of the Neolithic.

August 11, 2017: Clouds over Hoy viewed from above Trench T. (Karen Wallis)

August 11, 2017: Clouds over Hoy viewed from above Trench T. (Karen Wallis)

A combination of weather cancellations and weekends in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, means this look back is shorter than usual, but we’ll be back again tomorrow.

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