Sorry, folks. The end is not nigh — it has arrived.
This is the last diary for the 2013 excavation season at the Ness of Brodgar.
As we look across the site, bags of earth are being pushed into position to support fragile sections, sheets of black plastic are assembling and tyres are ready to roll onto the plastic to protect our site against the Orkney winter – a monumental task in itself that we expect to take the next few days.
It is a sad time. Archaeology on a site like this becomes intimate work.
Everyone is drawn into the fascination of what is being uncovered and the remarkable combination of working with your hands together with you mind, which characterises archaeology at its best, focuses, not just daily work, but daily lives.
And then there is the companionship which grows on site.
As we have said before, the Ness is blessed with many things but foremost amongst them is a workforce which returns year after year, which learns together, which in a sense grows together in knowledge and understanding, and which works together as a tight and harmonious team.
And the really nice part of this otherwise sad time is the opportunity to thank all of the many people have, not just contributed, but who have made this wonderful site what it is.
We want to begin by giving the warmest thanks to Arnie and Ola Tait who, with characteristic good nature and generosity, have allowed us to dig in this field for so many years.
We also want to send best wishes to Carole Hoey, who was so helpful to us when she lived at Lochview, and thanks for their continuing support and encouragement to Professor Jane Downes, head of the Department of Archaeology at the University of the Highlands and Islands, to Julie Gibson, Orkney County Archaeologist and also to Professor Mark Edmonds for his invaluable contribution.
Huge thanks are due to Rosemary and Neil McCance who are the veins through which the lifeblood of the excavation flows. To explain, absolutely nothing would work without their towering effort in preparing thousands of finds bags. If it wasn’t for Rosemary and Neil, where would our finds go?
Huge thanks also (and congratulations on his editorial promotion) to Sigurd Towrie of The Orcadian, who hosts our daily diary on his Orkneyjar website and whose sustained promotion of Orkney archaeology and of the Ness has raised its public profile in Orkney and far beyond.
Thanks also to The Orcadian newspaper for supporting Orkney archaeology by making possible the viewing platform which has been enjoyed by thousands of visitors this year. It is a simple fact that the experience of all these visitors would be sadly diminished without this contribution.
We want to thank Orkney Islands Council for their continued support and for their recognition of the tremendous benefits which Orkney archaeology, and the Ness in particular, bring to Orkney’s national and international profile, and also to the local tourism industry through our very large, and growing, visitor numbers.
Similar thanks go to Orkney Heritage Society for allowing us to use the house at Lochview for labs, photographic studio, office space and, most blessed of facilities, a flushing toilet. Thanks also to Orkney Archaeology Society, especially the volunteers who manned the most impressive shop and to Annabelle who has managed it so well.
We also thank The University of the Highlands and Islands, Orkney College; The Robert Kiln Trust; Historic Scotland’s Adrian Stanger and his Orkney-based workforce; the hard-working and delightful World Heritage Site Rangers, Sandra, Elaine and Keith; Jolly’s fish shop for polystyrene boxes; Lidl for plastic trays and to McConechy’s and Kenny Garrioch’s garage for the most necessary tyres.
Many thanks also to Currie Brothers, Orkney; Helen Woodsford-Dean; Rik Hammond, Mark Shiner and Radio Orkney.
In particular, we want to thank Professor Scott Pike of Willamette University, Oregon and his excellent and hard-working students. Ties between Orkney College and Willamette grow tighter each year and we look forward immensely to seeing Scott and his next contingent of students in 2014.
Moving on site, Nick wants to thank his field supervisors, Hugo, Dan, Jim, Dave, Sarah, Mike, Claire and Ben for their sterling work in often difficult conditions.
And also a huge amount of gratitude to Cecily Webster, our off site environmentalist, who has hopefully not drowned beneath the sea of sample buckets that have wound their way back to our processing facility at Orkney College.
Also Scott Timpany of ORCA Marine for his environmental advice and sampling and Dr Ingrid Mainland and Kerry Harris for their animal bone analysis both on and off site.
Also thanks to Martha Johnson, resident geologist, Roy Towers resident pottery specialist and site guide, Christopher Gee for weekend tours (and an eagle-eye for incised stone), Anne Mitchell, finds officer, for her astonishing organisation and hard-work and to her finds hut colleagues, Scott Forsyth and Jeanne Rose.
Thanks also to our visiting specialists, Cathy Batt, Zoe Outram, Jo McKenzie and Lisa Shillitto. We look forward to working with you all in the future. Big thanks, also to our many volunteers from around the world who have travelled often huge distances to become part of the team at the Ness.
A special thanks to Caz Mamwell and Dave Lawrence of Orkney Archaeology Tours who generously donated many hundreds of postcards of the Ness to the OAS shop, and also constructed a very eye catching donation box (from an old butter barrel!) which very successfully attracted donations for the Ness funds.
Almost last, but not least, many, many thanks to all of our readers around the world who have followed us faithfully.
To our astonishment there have been 70,000 plus hits on our diary website from around the world in the last six weeks. The good news is that we urge you all to keep a close eye on the website as we hope to bring you updates on the enormous task of post-excavation work which will take place between now and next summer.
Definitely last, and certainly not least, Site director Nick wishes to express his heartfelt thanks and love to his wife, Rachael, and to daughters Megan and Beth.
He has been lost to them throughout the school holidays and their support has been unstinting, especially when Rachael cooked her fingers to the bone providing wonderful food for the end-of-dig party. He hopes they will allow him out to play next year.
Until then, goodbye.