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Thursday, August 20, 2009
(Previous entries available here)

Rain, rain, wind and mud!

After yesterday's deluge of rain, we were expecting the worst today and we got it.  We started the day with a small scatter of sunshine but by 11am the heavens had opened, the wind went gale force, so we had to abandon site for a long lunch.

Not that we diggers are scared of a little rain, but more for the sake of the site. When it becomes wet, the easy-to-spot contexts all merge into one brown streak; each footstep picks up a ton of mud spreading across the contexts making it a technical nightmare!

Of course there is also the health and safety concern of wet boots, mud, clumsy archaeologists and lots of pointy stones to fall on! 

Hi. Graham Macdonald here - a slightly damp, very muddy and clumsy archaeologist on the Orkney College MA course here on the blog today!

Well, you might expect spirits dampened by the rain, but the reverse is true.

After spending a month digging together, the camaraderie is high and while we shelter the jokes come thick and fast, but, more interestingly, everyone ventures forward their own personal theory on the site’s purpose.

With some very knowledgeable and experienced archeologists on site, our toolshed shelter transforms into a lecture theatre. With a fantastic two-page spread in our local paper, The Orcadian, today speculation is high. Do we have a temple complex? Is the massive wall in trench R defensive or symbolic?  Did the people living at Barnhouse pop over to borrow a cup of sugar? 

Dr John Brown, a local geologist, dropped in today and identified our standing stone as consisting of igneous rock that probably came from a geological "dyke". Thin section analysis will hopefully be able to identify whether this is a local intrusion or came from further afield.

The red and yellow sandstone incorporated in the central chamber of Structure 10 was also confirmed as being not local, with the nearest possible source being at Houton, in Orphir, several miles away from our site. 

Work continued after lunch - at a furious pace to make up time lost in the morning.  Most work now revolves around surveying and recording the uncovered structures. The desire is great to keep digging but at this late stage, but with fewer volunteers the priority has shifted.

This is particularly felt in Trench R, where the wall exposed to 1.5 metres deep tantalizingly carries on deeper into the ground. Its mysteries will await next year’s diggers.

One building where excavation continues is Structure one, where, in the centre, an odd wall has been revealed to be a strange horseshoe-shaped construction, dominating the centre of the building. Speculation is that this may represent a much later use of the building. 

This afternoon, we were visited by all the children and teachers from the Stenness primary school – definitely some budding archaeologists among them – and potters too as the Historic Scotland Rangers led them in a prehistoric pottery "lesson".

Drying up at last and long may it continue (at least to the open day on Sunday).

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