Setting the scene for another season on the Ness of Brodgar

The excavation team at the end of the 2012 season of excavations. (Picture: Adam Stanford/

With less than a month to go until the excavators return to the Ness of Brodgar, the dig director, Nick Card, will be setting the scene at a special talk in Kirkwall next week.

The archaeologists will return to the Stenness site on July 15 for a six-week excavation that ends on August 23. As usual, the dig will have a distinctly international feel, with another group of students from Willamette University, in Oregon, USA, led by Professor Scott Pike.

In addition, Professor Mimi Bueno, of the University of Madrid, Spain, will be looking at some of the painted surfaces uncovered on the Ness, comparing them to similar finds in the prehistoric tombs of Iberia and Brittany.

Nick explained: “This season, we’ll also have Dr Cathy Batt, from the University of Bradford, returning to take samples, for archaeomagnetic dating, from the various hearths across the site.

“The main objective this year is sampling and analysing the floor deposits, and, as well as Scott bringing his portable XRF (X-ray fluorescence spectrometer) machine and carrying out more chemical analysis of the floor deposits on site to clarify how these buildings may have been used, Dr Lisa Shiletto, of Edinburgh University, will be making thin-section analysis of the floors.

“We’re also working with Professor Alasdair Whittle and Dr Alex Bayliss of The Times of Their Lives — a European project looking at refining radiocarbon dating through Bayesian statistical modelling.

“In archaeological terms, this allows the refinement of radiocarbon dates through the addition of contextual information, such as multiple dates for individual deposits, stratigraphic relationships, or even closely datable artefacts such as pottery.”

Also returning to the Ness of Brodgar next month is Tony Sherratt — a “living archaeology” specialist.

“Tony has specialised in the Iron Age and viking periods in the past, but on his last visit to the Ness, in 2011, he set up his tent with a selection of recreated artefacts from the Neolithic. These included a variety of hunting tools with flint points; arrows with flights fastened on with sinew; and a large selection of whalebone and antler artefacts.

“Tony will be on site from July 29 until August 2, and again on August 5 and 6.

Nick Card’s presentation — The Ness of Brodgar: Unravelling a Prehistoric Enigma —  is in the Kirkwall Town Hall next Wednesday, June 19, at 8pm.

Although the talk is part of the Orkney Archaeology Society AGM, all are welcome.

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