That’s excavation done for another year so thank you all
Dig Diary – Day Thirty-Three
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Ah well, the inevitable has happened and this is our last day of excavation at the wonderful Ness of Brodgar.
For all the obvious health reasons we had a much reduced staff and only three structures were opened up, but it has been a calm and contemplative time with seasoned colleagues, the usual brilliant archaeology and thousands of visitors to enliven proceedings with their questions.
The most notable discovery today was made by Melvyn as he continued working between the north-west recess and the nearby hearth in Structure Twelve, where he was packing small features with mini-sandbags.
He noted one of the orthostats, which may have been packing for an earlier feature. Importantly, it has faint incised marks including a cross, making it another of the many hundreds of decorated stones found on site.
It may not, however, be in its original position as the edges of the stone are rounded, perhaps from footfall or wear in an earlier location.
We will have a further think about this interesting find during post-excavation in the months to come.
The bulk of effort today concentrated on all the large and small tasks which must be completed.
Paperwork and plans have to be checked, countless elements have to be cross referenced and sandbags made ready for supporting the delicate masonry.
There were nerve-racking moments when the substantial sections of our very large, and very fragile, vessel from outside Structure Twelve were moved from the finds hut and taken from the site to a place of safety.
We have mentioned previously that some of the decoration on this pot is unusual, with applied cordons forming double rows of elliptical panels in chains of decoration on the upper part of the pot. This in itself is not terribly unusual.
What is out of the ordinary is the third parallel cordon inside each panel bisecting it and making the panels look almost like closed eyes.
A good deal of work and thought will be invested in this very late Grooved Ware vessel in coming months and we will be consulting with colleagues and canvassing their opinions.
This flurry of activity, much of it detailed and some of it heavy, means that our precious site will be put to bed safely and comfortably for the long winter months when the wind will tug and nag at the covers, shredding loose plastic and even moving the heavy tyre covering around.
At this point site director Nick is always keen to thank the many people who have made the weeks of excavation such an outstanding success.
This is a virtually impossible task due to the large numbers of people who have contributed, but there are some who simply must be mentioned.
Top of this list is Rosemary McCance who, with her late husband Neil, laboured long and hard in years past to supply us with finds bags already written with the vital details which ensure each find is identifiable.
Rosemary undertook the task this year alone as Neil, of whom we have the fondest memories, is no longer with us. We can’t thank her enough.
Our supporters, such as Orkney Islands Council, the American Friends of the Ness of Brodgar and the Historic Environment Scotland Rangers, have been as loyal and generous as ever and we thank them most sincerely.
This year we have had an expanded team of meeters-and-greeters who have been quite marvellous in making visitors welcome and ensuring that they get the most out of our necessarily limited facilities. With them Rhona has made a huge success of the site shop. Nick thanks them and hopes that as many as possible can come back next year.
He also has massive thanks, as ever, for the team, both diggers and those behind the scene and, whether he blushes or not, we the team want to thank him for his leadership, guidance and friendship, and also forbearance when the very occasional thing goes wrong.
Lastly, we thank you, the visitors on site and the countless fans and supporters of the Ness around the world who stick by us through the years. We couldn’t do it without you.
So, goodbye until next year (funding permitting).
P.S. The bidding war for the stunning carved stone ball made by Chris Gee continues. Bids close on Friday and the lead bid stands at £375.
PPS. If you are reasonably fit, the possessor of old clothing and stout boots and would like to help us close over the site tomorrow or Friday, please just come along or, for more details, email Nick on Nick.Card@uhi.ac.uk.