Dig Diary — Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Day Twenty-Seven

What lies beneath Structure Ten’s sandstone blocks?

Despite the wind, the latest squad of young archaeologists battle the elements to make some great discoveries.

Despite the wind, the latest squad of young archaeologists battle the elements to make some great discoveries.

Sorry folks, we’re starting with the weather again, but for a particular reason. Today is windy and cold.

The weather-beating received by diggers yesterday (and “beating” is the operative word) has left many of them fatigued and barely able to lift a trowel.

Okay, that last bit is exaggerated a little, but site director Nick has a duty of care to his staff and is watching the weather closely.

Tomorrow will probably be survivable, but by Thursday the real nasties in the form of wind and drenching rain will be sweeping across the site once more.

We are, therefore, giving advance notice to all those in Orkney who might visit us on Thursday that we will most probably be completely closed for all activities, digging and tours.

This is done with regret, but it is also a matter of health and safety as the site becomes dangerously slippery when wet, for both staff and visitors. It’s not final of course. We will continue to review the forecasts and will give a definitive notice tomorrow.

Back to the archaeology, which had a distinctly youthful air this morning.

Hugo enthrals the young diggers with his flint-knapping skills.

Hugo enthrals the young diggers with his flint-knapping skills.

The Excavation Club of young diggers was back and, to our delight, a number of the faces were recognisable from last year.

It seems that the rigours of archaeology have not deterred some local youngsters and they are enthusiastic enough to come back for some more. Perhaps we have converts.

A special attraction was laid on for them today in the form of Hugo, who returned to the site to demonstrate his flint-knapping skills.

Due to the weather he worked from inside the tool shed with the door wide open and the onlookers equipped with safety glasses—health and safety again.

Jasper plans his corner in Structure Ten.

Jasper plans his corner in Structure Ten.

In Structure Ten, Jasper is carrying out the final planning of the area where the basal courses of the original wall of the structure were exposed in the south-west corner.

Not far away, Claire is preparing to lift the two blocks of dressed yellow sandstone which were uncovered last year.

These are from the original inner wall face of Structure Ten and were eventually dumped into the south-west corner of the building during the reconstruction phase.

The real interest lies in the faces of the stones, which are buried downward-facing at the moment. When they emerge, perhaps tomorrow, will there be decoration on the hidden surfaces? We can hardly wait.

One of the dressed sandstone blocks from Structure Ten. What will its hidden face reveal? Watch this space.

One of the dressed sandstone blocks from Structure Ten. What will its hidden face reveal? Watch this space.

We want to put in a word now for the reclusive heroes of the site, rarely seen but always busy.

No, we are not talking about the Orkney Voles but about those who work behind the scenes.

Firstly, three cheers for Anne and her finds team whose natural habitat is the finds huts, plural, as she has now expanded.

They sort, record, clean and carefully bag all the finds and without them post-excavation work would be a chaotic mess.

Then there is Cecily, back at HQ in Kirkwall.

She undertakes all the flotation work on the samples which involves water-bathing them then carefully sorting out the interesting bits.

Without her efforts we would miss many interesting elements.

Lastly, but not least, is Ole who arrives on site burdened by remarkable amounts of photographic equipment. He goes to extraordinary lengths to photograph our best finds, even to the lengths of post-excavation colour correction. Amazing!

As the temperature is dropping fast and ice is forming on the diary keyboard, we will stop here, and hope to see you tomorrow.

Until then…

From the Trenches

Holly and Charlotte's mound of samples from the stone-working surface in Trench X.

Holly and Charlotte’s mound of samples from the stone-working surface in Trench X.

Hello, and welcome back to another blog post from the trenches.

My name is Charlotte; I have just recently finished my undergraduate degree with UHI Archaeology Institute and will be returning after the Summer to progress onto an MSc in Archaeological Practices.

This is my first year excavating at the Ness of Brodgar and what a pleasure it’s been (excluding the torrential rain).

I have been based in Trench X, the new trench, where myself and Holly have been sampling possible occupation flooring layer for the past couple of weeks after an anvil and hammer stone had been removed from a pit.

These were found as though the user had left them as they were and abandoned the area. Hopefully the more sampling we take, and the lower we go, the more we will start to understand what exactly was going on in this area.

Some of the finds team hard at work sorting and cataloguing the mountain of finds from the site.

Some of the finds team hard at work sorting and cataloguing the mountain of finds from the site.

Just behind us there has been a section of pathing exposed between what looks to be walls to a possible structure. Unfortunately, from what it looks like the trench will have to be extended for this structure to be exposed.

Within Trench T, Dr. Ben Chan and his team have been preparing to carefully remove the horn deposit from the site which will then be passed onto zooarchaeology experts.

In order to remove the bone deposit, they have to carefully package the deposit before removing it from the soil, they then slide a flat hard surface under the bone deposit before placing it within a secure box.

Throughout Trench P the digging as slowed down due to most of the structures progressing onto planning the structures. In the finds hut they are currently packaging all of the dry finds and producing some of the inventories so that the finds can go into storage.

We have, thankfully, had a change of weather this afternoon with the sun shining down after a miserable and cold start to the day. Hopefully this will carry on for the rest of the week! Thanks for reading.