Return to Orkneyjar Latest News Excavation Diary Excavation Background Archive Stories





Thursday, August 5, 2010
(Day 14)

Once again, towards the end of the day, yet another amazing find has been made in Structure Eight.

Roy was removing the layers around some of the collapsed roofing slates when, under one piece of stone, what appeared to be a rather strange piece of bone was revealed. Or was it bone? 

As Roy carefully cleaned around it, Dr Ingrid Mainland, our bone specialist, was called over to examine it. At first, even she seemed a bit puzzled, but as more was gradually revealed it started to look like a piece of ivory! 

Sword pommels of ivory have previously been found on later Iron Age sites such as Minehowe and the Cairns.  A box was carefully prepared with a bed of acid free tissue and bubblewrap. 

Then came the moment of truth. Roy gradually eased the piece free and lifted it into its box. Concentric lines could then be made out at the base of the object, confirming what we had begun to suspect – it was a very large whale tooth – judging by the size probably from a sperm whale! 

This now needs careful conservation – but what was it used for – was it the raw material for manufacturing some exotic item?


Picture ORCA
Roy and Nick carefully excavate around the whale tooth in Structure Eight.


Structure Eight has now given up several strange and, in some cases, beautiful objects (macehead, several polished stone tools and numerous large quartz pebbles/cobbles) that had been deliberately deposited within the collapse and rubble.

Will these items help us piece together what was going on 5,000 years ago in Structure Eight? Time and post-excavation analysis will tell!

From the trenches…

Picture ORCA
Neil Oliver assists ORCA's Antonia Thomas in Structure Ten.


Deep in the heart of Neolithic Orkney, a small team of archaeologists were joined by Neil Oliver and the BBC film crew trying to unearth the mysteries of time - I’m Mai Walker and this is. . .The Ness of Brodgar.

Right that’s the showbiz part over now let’s get into some serious archaeology!

We have recently discovered many changes to some of the structures around the site which are very interesting and useful for deciding the possible purpose of the building.

Yesterday, Owen managed to locate the entrance to Structure Twelve, meaning that the structure is finally coming together and actually beginning to look like a building! Nice one Owen!

We are now taking down the soil to reveal more walls and some lovely, patterned pottery.

Some of the patterned pottery discovered today (which was actually found by myself and Owein) showed patterns combining two of the rare patterns discovered not only in the Ness of Brodgar but also in other Orkney islands; these are a combination of the small "blob" like pieces of clay attached on to the pot before being fired and also the incised line marks.

It seems to be belonging to a "bed" of pottery, with over four possible separate pieces being found, a great find.

This is also similar in Structure Eight, where the entrance has also been found, as well as some lovely incised stone, found by Roy, which is important, apparently as it’s "very pretty".

Gavin has also discovered a rare and amazing find - a silt stone shaped into a flat point, which may have been used as an axe head or even for Neolithic artwork. This discovery has not yet been seen before and is a very exciting find for the Ness. It may also contain possible residue, which could be traced back to what the artefact was actually used for!

The drain where Claire and Mike are working appears to be disappearing underneath the walls of Structure Ten, which may indicate a drainage system coming from within the building itself.

Also, Andy has just let me know that some possible roof flagstones have been located in Structure One, within a clay deposit, which may indicate that they were used as "robbed" material to form other, later, structures within Structure One. This means that it may have been from an earlier structure and that there are a lot more hidden secrets within that structure yet to be discovered! We will keep you up to date with these early findings

Picture: ORCA
Nick Card explains the intricacies of the site to Neil Oliver.

Okay, back to the showbiz part!

The BBC is currently making a six-part series, History of Ancient Britain, and are travelling all over to find the very best of British archaeology.

Naturally, they would end up here.

They are joined by the legend himself, Mr Neil Oliver, and excitement is high over the arrival of the team (especially from Ally!). Watch out Neil!

The program will show the gradual development of the site over the six weeks and star some of the diggers, surveyors, supervisors and even our amazing director Nick Card (who will hopefully like me so much from this comment that he will let me come back next year!)

That’s all for today from the Ness of Brodgar.

As I believe I quoted from last year's blog entry: “If you are not holding a trowel by the end of this entry, a serious career change may be needed” 

Thanks for reading!


Maeshowe Alignments
A Neolithic focal point?
Stone Age art
The Great Wall of Brodgar
The Ness of Brodgar
Orkney's World Heritage Site
The Ring of Brodgar
Archaeology around the Ness of Brodgar
The Standing Stones of Stenness
The Barnhouse Settlement
Orkney College Logo OIC Logo Leader Logo ERDF Lgo
Orkney Archaeology Society