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Sunday, August 12
(Previous entries available here)

Hello again! This is Naomi – the finds supervisor.

It’s Sunday afternoon and the day of our open site for tours of the excavations so far here at the Ness of Brodgar.

As per usual with the habit of making set plans, the weather is atrocious, but this has not hindered the number of visitors who have taken the time and have braved the elements to come and visit the site and find out a little about the work we have been doing up here.

By 2.00pm over 90 people have arrived that I have counted from the dry of my finds hut! Today people could come to the site for a guided tour by the archaeologists working on the excavations, these being Nick Card (site director), Paul Sharman and Judith Robertson from the OAT Projects Unit and Dr. Jane Downes and Martin Carruthers from the Archaeology Department at Orkney College. 

We are now heading into the fifth week of excavations and apart from the monumental and extensive structures being revealed within the trenches themselves, on the finds front there has really been quite a significant number of pieces being produced.

The finds process which we are using here allocates an individual number to each ‘small find’ which is excavated and these are then recorded with grid co-ordinates and elevations in order to record their distinct and significant location within the excavation. To get a greater understanding of the archaeology and the actual activities which may have occurred here, it is essential to take everything into account and look at as many different aspects and sources of information that you can utilise.

The range of finds or assemblage of materials of which we are getting at the Ness of Brodgar this year is appropriate and typical to the Neolithic period and some of these have really been quite exceptional –most notably the beautiful polished stone macehead, a stone adze or axe from trench M found on Thursday and the intriguing incised stones of the doorways into the building in Trench P and the large fragments of Grooved Ware Pottery with intricately applied and incised decoration.

The amount of examples of coarse prehistoric pottery has been quite abundant, varying from very small quite poorly preserved fragments, to the rim and base sherds of vessels which can be analysed to suggest the size and design of the vessels, to also larger sherds of pottery have been excavated which show a range of designs of decoration including incised lines and applied pieces of clay.

What do these represent and were certain designs a significant tradition used for certain purposes? Pottery can also be analysed for residues intimating what such vessels may have contained… what were the diets like of these people using these locations? The burnt bone being found, most likely of animal origin, occurs in a large quantity across the site, from this, information can be gained on what sort of animals people favoured to rear and eat, and at what times they were choosing to do this.

Such ideas contribute to the discussion of the notions of the idea landscape usage and place, maybe even the seasonality of existence and the way life interrelates on both everyday and ritualised activities during the Neolithic period. 

There are also still many regular finds of flint, including small scrapers which perhaps  have been used in the preparation of animal hides and the like, in a society which may have used and thought of all elements of these animals which they have invested in as something quite significant and important.

Many enigmatic stone tools and items have also been found, in Trench P there has been a cluster of thin flaked stone fragments, which we define as ‘pot lids’, which show a range of sizes possibly suggesting a means of storage for substances within the pottery vessels – maybe preserves, liquids or potted meats …or the archaeologist's favourite, booze  – the possibilities are endless, but as with interpreting individual elements of a site it is just as important to look at the bigger picture (made easier visually when being lifted above the site in a cherry picker!!)  and this is the only way we may become closer to understanding what we have found here at the Ness of Brodgar and its place within the World Heritage site of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

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 Archaeological Trust
Orkney College
Historic Scotland