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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
(Previous entries available here)

Picture ORCA
A rather fine example of an incised slab - very similar to that found
in the 1920s (pictured below).

Brodgar Stone

Since it’s my last day, I’ve been allowed to write today’s blog!

My name is Jack Lyndon-Skeggs, I’m a volunteer at the Ness of Brodgar excavation, with the aim of building up work experience towards university interviews in December. I’ve been working on the site for four weeks, and have enjoyed every day of it, in sun-tan weather or pouring rain, being blown to pieces by the Orcadian wind or eaten alive by the midges, I think everyone here will agree your mind is on what’s at your feet, and what could be lurking inches away from your trowel.

Despite being my first dig, it’s pretty clear I’ve hit the jackpot. Everyone knows that our perception of history is being changed every day as more and more exceptional finds hit the surface. It’s a shame that all sites can’t be like this, where excavating 5,000-year-old animal bones, handling prehistoric tools, and pondering the symbolic landscape are simply the norm here!

It’s hard to comprehend the site in its entirety, as while you’re working in once section of the site, the other side, merely a few metres away, may have changed dramatically in the hour since you last saw it. How Nick, the director, and the supervisors can keep track of things is impressive, especially when all I can do is remember the context number for the day.

Unfortunately my last day has been hit by some pretty nasty weather, but the first we’ve had in the last four weeks, so I count myself very lucky. Being able to come away with a suntan (never mind how little) is certainly an achievement in my mind. However, with bad weather you can inevitably expect what can be done to be limited…

Picture ORCA
Excavation in Structure 8 continues once the rain had eased.

The earlier part of today was spent streamlining for next week when the site will be closed, and generally trying to find ways in which to hide as much skin from the wind as possible.

Luckily, just before lunch the weather seemed to pick up - enough to take our trowels out and start work, being careful of some pretty slippery rocks and planks however! The tasks undertaken today were mainly of a consolidatory nature, section drawings and general site cleaning, since the delicate nature of some of the areas made work impossible.

As a result today’s finds have not been as "historic" as usual, fairly understandably, but of course its never long here before bone and pottery are unearthed, such is the quality of the dig. A fine base to a ceramic bowl was found near Structure one, alongside a lot of animal bone. No day is ever boring.

It goes without saying that no-one could have hoped for such a success.

From standing stones with finely drilled holes, like the famous Odin Stone, to red sandstone imported to the site, this truly is a momentous place.

Picture ORCA
Tanya recording a section outside Structure 10.

Nestled between the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness, it was clear this site would be important, but my imagination at least was of a simple setting, perhaps more akin to Skara Brae.

Although Skara Brae is a fantastically preserved domestic setting, nothing can compare the craftsmanship of the Ness of Brodgar site, with finely shaped walls, to flagstone floors, and, of course, the scale. All of these factors, plus countless more add together to make perhaps Britain’s most spectacular Neolithic complex.

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