We’ve got it! Structure Five’s western wall revealed
Dig Diary – Day Ten
Friday, July 9, 2021
If you want to be really rude to an archaeologist, call them a “wall chaser”.
The term implies all that was bad about the earliest antiquarians, many of whom were little better than treasure hunters who rejoiced in finding walls which confirmed the existence of a building and which could be dug through to find the goodies inside.
We have a wall chaser here at the Ness – but in a good way. Paul, the talented, and very professional, supervisor of Trench J has been doggedly pursuing the outer wall face of Structure Five for two weeks.
As we mentioned earlier this week, the existing wall of the building follows a slight, but puzzling, outwards kink at the point where the team have begun to explore the suspected, and blocked-up, north-western entrance into Structure Five.
The existence of this doorway is now pretty well established, particularly as one of the blocking stones has a gap under it.
The entrance also seems to be in the right place in the overall plan of the building as, right opposite it in the interior and on the opposite wall, there is a dresser arrangement. This is to be expected, but the kink in the outer wall is a whole new puzzle.
This morning Paul confirmed that the outer wall face had now been found, but two problems remain. To understand what is happening to the wall it may be necessary to open up another extension to Trench J – number three.
This should answer the question of whether the south end of Structure Five on this side continued to bulge slightly. The other problem is that uncovering the outer wall face has revealed a strange protrusion consisting of what looks like a series of steps going nowhere.
At least there is now a better understanding of the entrance arrangement to the building on the west-facing side.
Inside Structure Five, Ray is working on the entrance into Structure Thirty-Two, a later building which sits on top of part of Five. It is a rather strange and unexpected entrance passage and bordered by a wall which has probably been constructed with stones robbed from Structure Five.
As Nick commented today: “It’s not the neatest build we have seen.”
They have some interesting finds.
Sue uncovered a most unusual flint tool which has been the subject of much on-site debate. Professor Mark Edmonds, who was digging with us today, thinks the polishing on its surface is actually use wear and that the tool may have been used for the creation of some of the incised art found on many Ness stones.
One end is damaged in a way which, he believes, suggests that it could also have produced the rounded cupmarks on decorated stones.
Next to Sue, Chris is excavating a very large slab of pot which has an incision on the interior of the rim.
We have come to suspect that large quantities of pot may have been deliberately deposited at entrances to buildings. This is certainly the case with the two entrances to Structure Twelve already discovered.
But Structure Twelve supervisor, Jim, who has an extraordinary memory for the vast and complicated features of his building, has pointed out that all the other pottery discovered at entrances – almost all of it decorated – was deposited with the exterior surface facing upwards. The new pot is face downwards.
We will think hard about the significance of this, but Chris faces a difficult task in removing the pot as part of it disappears under the section which runs alongside the Structure Twelve excavation.
The pot also looks very friable but with his experience Chris will certainly recover it in good enough condition for us to learn much about it.
Meanwhile, In the middle of Structure Twelve, Kevin and Jenna have been uncovering some of the primary floor of the building. To widespread amazement the section of floor revealed is actually level!
This is in stark contrast to almost every surface we have encountered in the Ness buildings – most of which are notable for their patched, repaired and almost universally uneven surfaces.
Over near the north wall of Structure Twelve, Sigurd has been investigating the collapsed drain area. Today a section of paving stones, which abutted the wall were removed. His find of the day was a nice piece of pottery decorated with an applied cordon, which had been incised lengthwise and then further decorated with a circular impression.
As regular readers will know, Jan has been excavating the very large hearth in the middle of the building.
She has completed one quadrant and has now reached an ashy layer which relates to the primary hearth of Structure Twelve, one which is even bigger than the present example.
We have exciting news which directly touches on a most unusual stone discovered today in Structure Ten by Professor Mark Edmonds.
It is a considerable puzzle, being a dense sandstone object of two pieces with a possible third piece missing. It has different facets and show signs of being worked; having flake scars, areas which have been ground, and areas which are smooth. There is also an uneven groove on one side.
So, it is a tool, but what sort of tool and how do we find out its secrets?
A clue to how we will proceed is that, unlike most stone tools recovered at the Ness, this one will not be washed.
It will be kept exactly in its present state to wait for the arrival in a couple of weeks of Dr Aimee Little of the University of York.
Dr Little is renowned worldwide for her expertise in conducting wear and use analysis on worked stone tools.
The object will be kept unwashed so that she can analyse the chemical composition of residues trapped in the tiny holes and crevices of the rock surface. Once identified, these will point to the materials which were utilised and in contact with the tool. In other words, tells us what it was used for.
Importantly, it will build on and complement the groundbreaking work on stone tools already under taken at the Ness and many other sites by Ann Clark.
This is cutting edge archaeological science and we hope that Dr Little may be able to use the same techniques on some of the other puzzling rock tools which we have at the Ness. It is also part of a major pan-European project in which the Ness has a double involvement, in stone tool analysis and in residue analysis on pottery.
We will tell you much more about these exciting developments in the near future.
Have a good weekend. We’ll see you on Monday…