Day Three Update
May 13, 2013 – Giles Carey
The weather held out for nearly the entire day of excavation at Smerquoy, but rain did stop play a wee bit early. However, this did nothing to dampen spirits among the diggers uncovering what is increasingly looking like a wonderfully preserved Early Neolithic house, with the plough having caused only limited disturbance to the well-constructed, drystone walls made of a distinctive yellow sandstone.
There are already four courses and counting in places. Who knows, I may even win that sweepstake [Giles] – see previous entry.
Excavation on the third day has concentrated on the rubble deposits, which have sealed a pristine-looking floor surface.
This upper layer has produced finds at a steady pace – nothing as dramatic as the macehead previously reported – but a series of flint and cobble tools, as well as diagnostic sherds of pottery, have been recorded.
All of this cultural material points to the use of the building somewhere in the fourth millennium BC.
This certainly excites Professor Colin Richards, excavator of a similar settlement at Stonehall, in Firth. There are many similarities between both sites, and the long-house building form can already be seen to be similar, in many ways, to the “classic” style of Neolithic farmsteads – first seen in Orkney at the Knap of Howar, in Papay.
In the north-east corner of the building a small recess is enclosed by finely dressed stonework and a basal slab was uncovered by Joyce; this feature appears to be similar to the storage cupboards seen at house two at the Knap of Howar.
Mick, working in the opposite corner, has been investigating a “compartment” defined by two orthostats which appear to be well bedded in underlying deposits; from this area, he has already recovered two hammer stones, used for removing flakes of flint to create stone tools.
Elsewhere in the house, the team have been defining the rubble layers before they can be carefully recorded and removed in the days ahead – this has to be a careful operation as it is likely these may have slumped down onto underlying soft floor surfaces.
This process will continue apace early this week. Who knows what awaits us as we begin to investigate the floor surfaces of this building?
And, on a positive note, at least the forecast rain helps to highlight changes in soil colour which are so crucial to the field archaeologist (when not chasing stone-built walls…) The damp soil infilling this 5,000-year-old drain, for instance, really helps us to define its extent. We look forward to investigating more in the days ahead.