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Tuesday, August 25, 2009
(Previous entries available here)

And another season at the Ness almost comes to end – same old story as with most digs – if only we had another week!

Today the sun is shining and all seems well with the site – final planning and recording are progressing well, and even the filling of the several hundred sand bags that are needed to help protect the site over the winter, seems less of a task today.

Picture ORCA
Structure 10 at the start of this season.

Picture: ORCA
Structure 10 at the end of this season.

Visitors continue to come making the most of the last couple of days the site is open – in all this year we have had in excess of 3,000 people taking advantage of the guided tours, plus numerous visitors who just drop in for a quick look and chat – never mind the thousands of other tourists who view the site from their whistle stop bus tours that pass the site on their way to the Ring of Brodgar or Skara Brae, as the buses all slow down for a quick photo session – really seems to have caught the public imagination – and who can blame them.

Picture ORCA
One of the many pieces of art from Structure 10.

At the end of each season, we think that the site must of reached the pinnacle of our expectations but every year it continues to amaze us – this year being no exception. 

In particular this year, it's been the turn of Structure 10 to start revealing its amazing secrets – a building over 20 metres long and almost as wide, with five metre thick walls defining a central cruciform shaped chamber – the incorporation of standing stones in its build – the use of red and yellow sandstone to decorate the central chamber along with cup marks, cup and ring marks and a large multiple lined chevron design – the alignment with Maeshowe – the surrounding paved outer ‘passage’ – and, of course, the beautiful stonework – to mention but a few highlights.

What will the central chamber reveal next year? – speculation is high on site.

Perhaps, though, the biggest surprise this year was the amazing preservation, and the quality, of the stonework in the "lesser" wall of Brodgar. I think anyone who has seen it has just been astounded – and to think that even with 1.2 metres of its height being so far revealed, the bottom of it is no where in sight.  What an awe inspiring sight this must have created 4,500 years ago as one approached the site from the direction of the Standing Stones of Stenness.  Did this wall, along with the "Great Wall", actually enclose the site to form a ritual precinct?

Picture ORCA
"The lesser wall of Brodgar."

All these answers, and many more, must now wait till next season.  Nick, the director, however, seems very pleased with what has been achieved this year, with the structural sequence now being much clearer, as is the definition of several of the buildings.

As ever, none of this would have been possible without the support, and funding, from the Orkney Islands Council, Russell Trust, Robert Kiln Trust, Orkney College, Sigurd Towrie (Orkneyjar), the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Orkney Archaeology Society, Orkney Builders, Blackbird Chimney Sweeping Services, Historic Scotland Ranger Service, Cardiff University and the numerous students and volunteers, both local and from much further afield who have assisted on site – and, of course, the two sets of landowners involved - Ola and Arnie Tait, and John and Carol Hoey, who have been so supportive in many ways.

Thank you all and see you next year.

Picture ORCA
Gavin, looking in the wrong place for a macehead.

If you wish to support the work at the Ness of Brodgar, donations can be sent to the Orkney Archaeology Society, PO Box 6213, Kirkwall, Orkney KW15 1YD.

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