Dig Diary – Friday, July 25, 2014

Day Ten

Colour in prehistory

Antonia (centre) with our Spanish visitors Mimi and Rodrigo.

Antonia (centre) with our Spanish visitors Professors Mimi Bueno and Rodrigo de Balbin Behrmann

We will start with an update on the activities of our very distinguished visitors from Spain.

Professors Mimi Bueno and Rodrigo de Balbin Behrmann are the foremost experts in Europe in the use of colour in prehistory.

Their work has taken them all over Europe and the list of their academic publications is extensive.

They are here for a week to do comparisons between what they have discovered in Europe and the examples and use of colour here, on rock and pottery at the Ness.

One of the greatest advantages of having visiting experts is their ability to bring fresh eyes and deep experience to bear on our material.

Site director Nick and Antonia Thomas, who has been working on the rock art for her PhD thesis, have been confident in their analyses and identification of our coloured material.

It has also been gratifying, however, to have Mimi and Rodrigo examine the Ness examples and identify them immediately as applied pigment.

They have taken pinpoint samples for non-destructive RAMAN analysis and will identify the minerals and the pigments used and also any background material, but their work also involves examining and analysising other potential aspects of the decoration.

The gridded central midden area is slowly reduced.

The gridded central midden area is slowly reduced.

They have visited Skara Brae and taken samples from the “paint pots” discovered there, and have also had what is described as a “very interesting” visit to Maeshowe. We can hardly wait for the results of their work.

Infill mirrors artefacts

The flow of interesting artefacts continues.

Working in the midden infill of Structure Eight, Ray has found the head of yet another polished stone spatula.

There is now increasing speculation that the material found in the midden infill of the structures may mirror the artefacts found, and the activities undertaken, in the floor deposits of the structure interior.

In Structure Twelve, for example,  the midden infill is full of coloured Grooved Ware pottery, reflecting the large amounts of pottery now being unearthed in the floor deposits, some decorated with colour.

Claire displays her new polished axe from Structure Ten.

Claire displays her new polished axe from Structure Ten.

Over in Structure Ten, Claire gave a hand to Catriona who was working in the robbing trench of the north-west corner.

Almost immediately, Claire unearthed a very handsome polished stone axe. It has seen a lot of very heavy work but still impresses immediately.

In the central midden area, the Wheeler box sections are working nicely and everyone’s sanity is being retained, at least for the moment, and, in Structure Fourteen, the extensive sampling of the floor deposits has been completed and work is now proceeding to the next floor deposit.

The toilet hypothesis

In Structure Twelve, Mic continues to work on his huge pot spread, several sherds of which appear to be coloured and in Structure One Chris, working in the north-west cell, has found what appears to be a couple of drains.

This is strongly reminiscent of a cell with drain at the Crossiecrown site, in St Ola, which was identified as possibly being an indoor toilet.

We must mention Nick’s highly popular tour for a group from a high school in Texas. The youngsters described the archaeologists on site as being “hot”. There are two ways of interpreting this. Hot they certainly are, in the sense of being red-faced and perspiring. Any other interpretation is surely wrong.

Have a nice weekend.

From the Trenches

Chris recording the cell, with drains, in Structure One.

Chris recording the cell, with drains, in Structure One.

David W.G. Martin from East Lothian (Prestonpans)
From the University of the Highlands and Islands (Perth College- undergraduate going into 2nd year)
Purpose of being on excavation – university module

Hello (or good afternoon (to be more formal)), I have been on the site of the Ness of Brodgar for two weeks now, and the experience has been absolutely awesome.

Throughout my rather short stay I have been excavating in and around Structure Fourteen: which has been of course extremely fascinating; I personally have not actually found much (apart from a “huge” piece of bone), but I have seen many interesting and weird finds through my stay – including an axehead sticking out of a floor deposit in Structure Fourteen. Umm…. Since this is my first time on an excavation site I have learnt an enormous amount of stuff, which I – hopefully – will fully remember over the coming weeks, months, years and whatnot.

Cheerio, I suppose (Farewell (on the more formal side again))

Dave.