Dig Diary – Thursday, August 4, 2016

Day Twenty-Four

Today's poor weather failed to dampen Mai's enthusiasm as she revealed more of the elusive building under the midden mound in Trench T.

Today’s continued poor weather failed to dampen Mai’s enthusiasm as she revealed more of the elusive building under the midden mound in Trench T.

Some things becomes clearer, others don’t . . .

Some of the resilient visitors today as they huddle behind the site shop to hear the latest from Roy.

Some of the resilient visitors today as they huddle behind the site shop to hear the latest from Roy.

Resilience is the hallmark of many archaeologists. It has to be, as a life in a muddy trench, while the wind and rain howl about your head, is a uniquely testing environment.

And we have been tested in recent days. We make no apology for going on about the weather because it has been really horrible and today was no exception.

The wind has nagged and nagged, the temperature has dropped and already weakened bodies, if not souls, are beginning to wilt.

Other effects have been seen. The Ness car park has coped, over the years, with the arrival of many thousands of vehicles of all sizes. But by the beginning of this week it, too, had had enough.

The car park quagmire is transformed with the addition of 120 tons of gravel.

The car park quagmire is transformed with the addition of 120 tons of gravel.

Axle-deep mud appeared and, by Tuesday, BBC cameraman Ed’s huge, four-wheel drive vehicle was required to tow out stranded camper vans.

Something had to be done.

And it has been, but at a cost.

The Ness piggy bank has been raided to the tune of 120 tons of rock and bottoming, together with a large mechanical digger.

This has been spread and compacted and we now have a car park which should (fingers crossed) withstand anything but a tsunami.

The problem is that, as a result, we have a hole in our funds.

We have, therefore, been forced, once again, to throw ourselves on the mercy of our supporters. A crowdsourcing appeal has been launched to pay for the car park and we would be incredibly grateful for every single donation. The link is https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/5263.

Now, we are also aware that there are those who may suggest that this appeal is not strictly for archaeology, but it is, and in a most important way.

We are committed to bring the Ness, and the results of excavation, to the general public, and to as many of them as possible. That is an essential component of modern archaeology and we are determined to uphold it.

But to do that we need facilities and access and the car park is essential to both. Therefore, supporting the car park fund is also supporting a core aim of Ness archaeology.

We would also like to thank the many people who have continued to visit us for tours, not just for their presence but for their enthusiasm, interest and support. Their manifest fascination in all that the Ness offers gives a real lift to the staff, especially in the sort of conditions we faced today. Thank you, all.

Can you spot Structure Twenty-Eight under Structure Twelve?

Can you spot Structure Twenty-Eight under Structure Twelve?

In the trenches there have been exciting developments today.

In Trench T, more of the midden has been removed, revealing some of the results of the stone robbing. It has also uncovered some of the remains from the robbed-out building(s) lurking at the bottom of the trench.

We would love to tell you that this has made everything clearer but we can’t.

Tom's sondage helps to unravel the history of Structure Twelve and its predecessor, Structure Twenty-Eight.

Tom’s sondage helps to unravel the history of Structure Twelve and its predecessor, Structure Twenty-Eight.

In fact, the building is proving as intractable as ever. Is it one building or more? Why does it stubbornly refuse to form a coherent and sensibly sized structure?

Why do the wall faces point in the “wrong” direction? Was this a building which was never finished?

We will get to the bottom of this unique puzzle . . . but not for a while yet.

Over in Structure Twelve, the sondages, with their multiple floors, have tested Jim’s very considerable resilience. Some hard thinking has now, however, brought sense out of the stratigraphic complexities.

It seems that Structure Twenty-Eight –  which is under Structure Twelve and which has some beautiful walling –  may have been the original Structure Twelve and, when the building we now know and love as Structure Twelve was built, it was re-aligned, or placed at an angle, to what we now see.

This makes a whole lot of sense and Jim’s brow is now unfurrowing.

One of the new decorated stones from Structure Eleven - featuring a chequerboard pattern of finely incised lines.

One of the new decorated stones from Structure Eleven – featuring a chequerboard pattern of finely incised lines.

The deconstruction of Structure Eleven, by Antonia and Andy, has, as she prophesised, produced more decorated stones.

These are built into the wall and were probably crafted, and then made invisible, by their placing as the structure was being built.

More work is needed on the building and hopes are high for yet more decorated stones.

The wind is now blowing hard and, whatever the weather forecast, we refuse to believe it.

What we all need is some hot tea so, until tomorrow….

But be sure to have a look at our Dig Diary Extra today, for some detailed, zoomable aerial images of Trench P without its covers –WOW!

From the Trenches

Hello! My name is Lara and I am a student from Willamette University.

Being born and raised in Hawaii, I never imagined that I would be spending my summer half-way around the world. However, thanks to Professor Scott Pike, and the site director, Nick Card, I was able to be introduced to the world of archaeology here at the Ness.

As the tour guides have been saying, “no one really knows what’s going on in Trench X.”

To help out with this mystery, our trench supervisor, Anne Teather, started today by pointing out the features that are emerging from the soil.

Even though we can’t be certain of what we are finding, having the jumble of rocks we’ve been standing on put into perspective as a possible structure wall served as a great reminder of what we are actually doing here at the Ness.

While it’s easy to stick yourself in a trench and block everything out, the best part of being at the Ness is when you are able take a step back from what you are doing, look around you, and realise how amazing everything truly is.

Even though I joke around by saying that I’m just digging in the mud, the truth of the matter is that we are being provided with the opportunity to excavate and piece together clues about the Neolithic Orcadians who used to live here.

Having finished up my second-to-last day on site, I can’t help but be extremely grateful for this wonderful experience.

Between the supervisors, the volunteers, and even the site dog, everyone looks out for each other and are always willing to lend a helping hand.

I can’t thank Nick and Scott enough for providing me with this amazing opportunity and I really hope that I am able to return for a second season next year!