Return to Orkneyjar Latest News Excavation Diary Excavation Background Archive Stories





Friday, August 1, 2008
(Previous entries available here)


This afternoon, in Trench N, that was extended to explore the possibility of a ditch to the north of the "Great Wall of Brodgar" (as implied by tipping deposits and a deep cut in the very edge of last year's trench), another wall line, parallel to the Great Wall, was uncovered.

The cut revealed last year now appears to  be a construction cut for this new wall and not the edge of a ditch as first thought. The new wall seems to be a later addition and increases the width of the wall to a massive six metres !!!!

Watch this space for an explanation of this next week as more is revealed.

Picture ORCA
Structure 1, in Trench P, prior to planning commencing.

Welcome back to the excavation site on a wet and blustery Orkney day, after a few beautiful, warm, sunny days.

My name is Val Thomas and this is my first excavation experience in a very, very long time.

I studied archaeology and prehistory at Sheffield University in the early 70s and, at the end of my degree there, a choice arose – go up to Orkney to dig with my professor, Colin Renfrew or go off and excavate in Syria. I chose the latter.

Picture ORCA
Structures 7 and 8 in Trench P.

And so here I am, 35 years later, completing an experience that has clearly been waiting for me. Over the last five years I have been coming up to Orkney a couple of times a year visiting the impressive Neolithic sites and each year I wished somewhat wistfully that I might have the opportunity to dig here.

I never really thought this would happen until an email arrived out of the blue requesting FOAT members to come and volunteer on the excavation at the Ness of Brodgar. 

Most of the week I have been digging (or remembering how to dig) in Trench P, with Gemma, working back over the area outside the main structure.

Yesterday, we moved over to the new trench Q, where we are hoping to track the "Great Wall of Brodgar".

Picture ORCA

We are cleaning back the level under the topsoil but as yet no clear indication of any structure is emerging. Meanwhile, in Trench N, parallel to ours, some nice pieces of Grooved Ware have been coming up today, in the infill of the putative ditch next to the "Great Wall".

Picture ORCA
The base of an upside down pot discovered in Trench N.

As for the digging, well some things remain the same - the jokes; the stoicism; blisters and the half-moon patch of sunburn at the base of the back. While other things have changed: the technology of course; fleeces have replaced jumpers; spam sandwiches are no longer standard fare. 

And so I have spent a short but fascinating week digging on this extraordinary site, where, day by day, the heart of Neolithic Orkney is coming more into focus.

Each time I stand up to stretch my back (I don’t remember it aching so much in my early twenties) wherever I look I am met by stunning vistas of land and sea.

Next week I will be back in the centre of London and hopefully I can take some of the sense of peace from the island back to the metropolis.

Picture ORCA
The southern side cell of Structure 1 showing the exquisite stonework.
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