The giant pot kept coming…
Dig Diary – Day Fourteen
Thursday, July 15, 2021
The day began much as it ended yesterday – the operation to remove the sherds of the giant pot outside Structure Twelve.
We told you yesterday how the one sherd was successfully recovered and this morning two other very large sherds were safely excavated and transported to the finds hut.
From the pieces uncovered, it seems this was a monster pot – perhaps around half-a-metre tall! There was a collective sigh of relief across the site when the last of the pieces were removed. With them out of the way, work can continue extending the Structure Twelve trench extension downwards.
Given our experiences of excavating outside entrances, however, we have no doubt there will be more.
We’ve spoken in the past about various conundrums encountered across the site.
This season, in Trench J, the dominating conundrum is one of walls.
Supervisor Paul is untangling the story of the multiple walls revealed at the west end of Structure Five. But as always with the Ness, moments of clarity are invariably followed by discoveries that really muddy the waters and prompt more questions.
Paul is now thinking that Structure Five’s original entrance was on the west side and that when it was blocked, there was some tampering with the building’s outer wall face. It also may be that in an earlier phase, Five had an outer buttress like that encountered during the excavation of the Early Neolithic structure at the Braes of Ha’Breck, in the Orkney island of Wyre.
In addition, another set of wall lines running off from Five could relate to a structure that pre-dates the building. These hypotheses, however, need to be unpicked and work will continue to excavate, plan, photograph and record these enigmatic features. As usual it will all come good in the end.
The curving wall we mentioned on Tuesday is now almost certainly much later in date and unconnected to Structure Thirty-Two, which also post-dates Structure Five and sits on top of its southern end.
There was some confusion to begin with when polythene turned up in the fill associated with the building. As we all know, there was no polythene in the Neolithic! So where did it come from? The fragments are the result of soil erosion and material washing in from outside and coming to rest under the building.
As we’ve mentioned previously, Structure Twenty is represented by a curving wall in the entrance annex to Ten.
Mark has now revealed the inner face of one of these sections and confirmed the presence of a large orthostat jutting out from it. This large stone slab would have been one of a number used in the building to divide up the interior.
The later buildings, such as Structures Eight and Twelve, used stone piers to create different areas while earlier structures, such as Five, used stone slabs.
Mark’s excavation is hampered by the small area he has to work in – an area that is diminishing rapidly as more stones appear. We hope, however, that we can remove some of these and continue downwards.
Inside Structure Ten, Sinead and the team continue the painstaking work of excavating down through the building’s occupation layers.
The removal of a series of orthostats from the western wall will allow them to work downwards and clarify the use of the building over its lifetime.
The excavation of complex floor deposits is also the name of the game in Structure Twelve.
Clare has been half-sectioning a large posthole in the western recess of building. The post it once held seems to have been inserted into the structure prior to its collapse in an effort to hold the roof up.
Unfortunately for the Neolithic builders their efforts were in vain and eventually the roof came down when Twelve’s southern wall collapsed and brought the roof with it.
Jan and Jenna have continued their work unpicking occupation layers, while Sigurd, outside the north-western corner recess is slowly, but surely, working down through multiple layers of deposits before the box-like feature can be further excavated.
The dry conditions of late means that another large animal bone – probably cow – is clearly visible at the top of the box, with hints there are more beneath.