Dig Diary – Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day Nineteen

More of the wall lines and external paving of Structure 11 revealed.

More of the wall lines and external paving of Structure Eleven revealed. (ORCA)

The infernal Orkney wind caused problems on the Ness today, drying the surface of soil and midden and sending it flying over previously cleaned sections.

Frankly, it made things look untidy, and, believe it or not, untidy is frowned on, deeply, on an archaeological site. One structure supervisor was even heard to mutter that rain would be a good thing. It just shows how desperate people can get.

Considerable strides were made in Structure Ten.

Sarah reveals that the hearth despite suffering from subsidence is indeed complete.

Sarah reveals that the hearth in Structure Ten, despite suffering from subsidence, is indeed complete. (ORCA)

Claire is still in her interesting corner, dealing with secondary insertions and wall lines, which appear to form cells and recesses along the northern wall.

In the centre of the structure, Sarah is excavating the large hearth in quadrants. Happily, she has found that all of the sides are complete, forming a square.

This is heartening as it had been thought that the hearth stones had been robbed out. True, it slumps alarmingly into earlier structures that are underneath, but at least it is all there.

Mike is still cleaning and planning the robbed-out entrance, as we mentioned in yesterday’s diary, but during the cleaning process, this morning, some large blocks emerged that have survived the robbing.

This may turn out to be the remains of the basal courses of the long-lost entrance.

These slabs would seem to fit perfectly with an east-west orientated entrance passage and corresponds to a change visible in the section behind – if only the entrance had survived intact – one can only speculate as to what it looked like originally and whether it was decorated in some way to reflect the grandeur of the rest of Structure Ten!

Adam with the central pillar of the 'dresser' in Structure Ten.

Adam with the central pillar of the “dresser” in Structure Ten. (ORCA)

Meanwhile, Adam has removed the red sandstone pillar support of the dresser in Structure Ten (see Structure Ten:  The Ness of Brodgar – opening a Neolithic treasure chest) since, despite being supported by sandbags, it had become unstable.

This was due mainly, as we discovered when removed, that it was barely set into the floor.

Along with the upright central support, the prone left hand support was also removed.

This slab has also been beautifully surface-dressed by pecking.

Under certain lighting, this pecking also reveals that the pecking may form a series of chevrons along its outer edge.

Outside Structure Ten, Seb and Mai continue to uncover the thick bone deposits surrounding the building, in preparation for the visit by Dr Ingrid Mainland, Orkney College UHI’s bone expert, next week.

The pick-dressed side pillar from 'dresser'.

The pick-dressed side pillar from Structure Ten’s ‘dresser’. Click image for a larger version. (ORCA)

In Structure One, the last vestiges of the tumble/collapse/infill associated with the later insertion of the curving wall are being removed.

More of the hearth is also turning up but, surprisingly, the top edge of one of the hearth stones has a red deposit on it.

This is clearly neither ash nor heat-affected stone and the possibility exists that is may turn out to be yet more “paint”.

Finding it on the top edge is also rather strange, and some serious thinking, and analytical work, will now be applied to the deposit.

In Hugo’s corner, a good deal of head-scratching over the multiplicity of emerging structures continues, but at least in Structure Eleven, the piers and inner wall face are, at last, becoming clearer, with very fine masonry, akin to that in Structures One and Twelve, is emerging.

Forrest gently brushes the beautifully decorated pot.

Forrest gently brushes the beautifully decorated pot. (ORCA)

In the central midden area, between Structures One, Eight and Twelve, Forrest has recovered large sherds of handsomely decorated Grooved Ware pottery.

Spectacular finds have been relatively scarce today, but in the midden section of Structure Eight, Roy uncovered a small stone, which had three parallel lines firmly incised into it.

A very small hammerstone was also discovered, close to the incised material.

Today’s distinguished visitor was Dr Euan Mackie, a veteran (but still very active) Scottish archaeologist, who has contributed several important theories to the study of stone circles and other Neolithic remains.

He appeared to enjoy his visit and we look forward to his views on the Ness.

From the Trenches

My name is Aaron Houghton and I’m a 19-year-old university student from Bainbridge Island, Washington.

I attend Willamette University, in Salem, Oregon.This coming fall will be my second year there.

I currently do not have a major; however this trip has opened my eyes to the world of archaeology and has shown me what a great path it could be.

I am excavating on the Ness of Brodgar through Willamette University. One day, I noticed a flyer on a wall and, being interested in archaeology, signed up for the field school. Seeing as this was my first experience with archaeology, I had no idea what to expect. I had many questions running through my head – would I find anything? What will the work be like? Will it be fun?

Seb expertly reveals more of the bone deposit surrounding Structure 10.

Seb expertly reveals more of the bone deposit surrounding Structure Ten. (ORCA)

I have found a few items. More than I thought I would.

Digging up a small piece of pot occurs every once in a while but my latest find was a small piece of flint. I’ve found a few small pieces of flint before, but the satisfaction of finding something never gets old.

The work has been great too.

I’ve been working in the CMA, or the Central Midden Area. It is between all of the structures.

At first glance, it appears to be a large section of pointless dirt. However, every day we are uncovering new treasures. We are taking the midden down bit by bit, which may seem tedious, but, in fact, it helps us not miss a single find.

The dig site has been a lot of fun. The people are great and all the supervisors keep us in line, while simultaneously making the, at times monotonous, work proceed with high spirits. There is not a single drop of regret in my decision to travel halfway around the world to dig at this amazing place.

I have been here for almost three weeks and our entire experience is intended to last for four.

I’m saddened by the fact that time has passed by so quickly, but I am pleased to have experienced this incredible place.

I would not trade my time here for anything.