Dig Diary – Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Day Twelve

Sam and Cathy prepare a burnt area for archaeomagnetic sampling in Structure Eight.

Sam and Cathy prepare a burnt area for archaeomagnetic sampling in Structure Eight.

Raising an eyebrow . . .

We haven’t said much about Trench T yet — the one on the far side of the house. That is because it has only been extended and worked in the last day or so.

It is going well. Under Ben’s direction, the Willamettes are settling in and trowelling away, industriously, in what must seem a wide open prairie of midden.

It certainly is a big space, but there is method behind it — principally in gaining a greater understanding of the broken standing stone, but also in exploring the large, possibly quarry, pits around its base.

Joe with his polished stone spatula from Trench T.

Joe with his polished stone spatula from Trench T.

But although not renowned for sensational finds, Trench T has come up with something very interesting.

It is the top, or business end, of a stone spatula, which is reminiscent of a large spoon with a flat-profiled bowl.

This is particularly intriguing because it looks as if it has been used.

Careful cleaning will be needed to confirm this, but the spatulas already found (from Structure Eight) appear freshly made and not used at all — indeed, we have no idea as to their purpose.

This may change because the Trench T spatula, if heavily used, may be capable of use-analysis to tell us just how and on what it was deployed.

Today's happy intake for the Excavation Club.

Today’s happy intake for the Excavation Club.

The Excavation Club were back today, digging and finding pot outside Structure Twelve and no doubt confirming in their young minds that there is no better career than archaeology. They may not have heard about the pay, though.

Site director Nick took one of his specialist tours today, with a group from Ace Cultural Tours.

This organisation, apart from conducting intelligent people on challenging outings also has an educational wing and we hope to be able to do more work with them in the future.

On the subject of intelligence, we continue to be gratified by the large numbers of people taking tours of the Ness, and, in particular, the acute and well-informed questions they ask. They are a delight to take round our site.

In Structure Twelve, Anne and her team are grappling with the layout of a sampling grid for the floors.

This is not a regular grid with careful squares, but a rather wild-looking Cat’s Cradle, which will contain small baulks.

The eyebrow motif discovered by Jo in

The eyebrow motif discovered by Jo in Structure Ten.

Cathy and Sam have continued to take samples from within the structure and, in Structure Eight, our morphologist Jo has been examining the floors, digging tiny holes and discovering, to her delight, that the structure has many, many floors, all of which will no doubt contain exciting information.

Possibly the greatest excitement has been caused by Jo Bourne, the designer of our new guidebook (available on the internet and from good bookshops at a ridiculously low price), who is working on a bone deposit on the west side of Structure Ten.

Jo noticed a stone within the core of Structure Ten which has a crude eyebrow motif pecked into its surface.

This is hugely exciting because this motif has not been found at the Ness before and it is reminiscent of a similar motif found in a chambered tombthe Holm of Papay South — on the tiny island called the Holm of Papa Westray (pictured below), in Orkney’s North Isles.

As to the weather. Well, gusty winds and precipitation have dominated the afternoon.

We hope for better tomorrow.

From the Trenches

Some of the floor deposits revealed in Structure Eight, ready for micromorph thin-section analysis samples to be taken by Jo Mackenzie.

Some of the floor deposits revealed in Structure Eight, ready for micromorph thin-section analysis samples to be taken by Jo Mackenzie.

Greetings friends, my name is Kaitlen, and although my home is Hawaii, I attend Willamette University in Oregon.

It is through my school that I was given this opportunity to participate in an archaeological dig, despite anthropology and religious studies being my main areas of study.

Orkney certainly isn’t Hawaii, but somehow the rain and cool winds of this historically rich area have made me fall in love with the place.

I am the lucky first victim from Willamette who has been pulled out from the mud to tell about how I am experiencing the site, and so I have to reiterate (and it is only day two) mud.

But inside an outer shell of muddy waterproofs is a very happy 20-year-old girl, who is stunned that she is being allowed to work on such an amazing site.

Before arriving, I was excited and nervous, and all my clothes were squeaky clean. But after a tour of the area yesterday, I was already a little bit muddier, and those feelings have turned into awe.

Not only is the rest of the crew on the site welcoming and open to questions, but I keep being shown finds, like bits of grooved pottery and bone that have changed how experts view Neolithic times, and then it hits me that I am getting to dig where these important discoveries were made.

That is crazy, because just a couple of weeks ago I thought my job at the library and moving into a new apartment was important, but now I want to know EVERYTHING about the Neolithic people. Probably the most important impression the site has made on me (so far) is that these people who arranged the stones here, thousands of years ago, are not the primitive cavemen many think they are.

They were an important part of history and their lives deserve more examination, speculation, and admiration.