Smerquoy excavation 2015 update

Today’s update, photographs and thoughts on Smerquoy are from Michael Ferguson who has been a regular volunteer for the last two seasons:

On of the pottery bowl rims found at Smerquoy.

On of the pottery bowl rims found at Smerquoy.

Our diggers this week have all been very hard working, well motivated and keen on getting to the bottom of Structure Two (Hoose o Brodie) and Ali’s Hoose.

Structure Two consists of a deep cut at the top end, which keeps on getting deeper. In it we have just revealed a dark black charcoal rich surface. The edges of the structure are still very hard to find at the bottom end.

The grey clay layer presented us with some lovely finds today, Tuesday, July 14 — at least four pieces of rim, which Martin and I believe are from a single pot, along with Skaill knives and one of the finest examples of a finger stone (possibly polished) so far, and, of course, the quern fragment with a lovely curve.

Possibly the star find, though, was a vivid red bit of faceted hematite, which may have been rubbed to produce red pigment.

I have come to the conclusion that the pottery is spectacular, much more impressive than on any site I have worked on before and even better than last year’s. Although on the downside, the flint finds have very nearly dropped from existence — the odd flake here and there, unlike last year where flint was coming up regularly.

The lump of ground hematite which also seems to have been burnt, maybe to alter its qualities. It has probably been used to produce a bright red pigment. While faceted hematite is often found on late Neolithic sites in Orkney it is rare in an early Neolithic context.

The lump of ground hematite which also seems to have been burnt, maybe to alter its qualities. It has probably been used to produce a bright red pigment. While faceted hematite is often found on late Neolithic sites in Orkney it is rare in an early Neolithic context.

Martin also found a Skaill knife — possibly the largest Skaill knife in existence, a two handed monster.

Structure Two has been a bit confusing.

At the moment, there is the lack of a clear edge in its lower end — perplexing us because, at this stage, there is no hearth, but widespread burning, and huge amounts of pottery, Skaill knives, finger stones and some flint flakes.

This, to me, seems to represent a work area. It could have been an early structure, later turned into a workshop … or is it just a very messy house?

I don’t believe Ali’s Hoose is a house, or even a structure — again it seems to be a work area cut into the natural clay slope.

This “structure” again held many finds, the usual suspects — Skaill knives, pottery, hammer stones, finger stones, and the odd bit of flint, as well as a larger than normal level of bone; nothing greater than a couple of centimetres.

Earlier this week, by Ali’s Hoose, a drain was found by myself and Andy, which leads out of the section edge. But to where? These drains and pits could have been used for catching water that ran down the hillside as well as draining it away from the structures at the bottom of the trench where the hill levels off.

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