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Wednesday, July 23, 2008
(Previous entries available here)

Good afternoon, my name is Stephen Morrison and I will be starting the second year of my Environment & Heritage Studies degree in September. 

The content of the degree includes history and archaeology, which has increased my interest in learning more about excavation processes and site management. 

The opportunity to come to Orkney this summer seemed like an excellent place to learn more while gaining some valuable practical experience.  Being based in Inverness, it is also a chance to meet with lecturers who we normally only see on a video conferencing screen. 

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First guided tour from the Historic Scotland Ranger service.

This is the third day of the excavation for this summer. 

Having completed all the heavy work of removing the backfill to reveal last year’s site remains, we are now able to get down into the trenches with trowels and clear areas of the site.  As an inexperienced digger I am working with a few of my undergraduate colleagues on Trench P, under the supervision of James Moore and Dan Lee. 

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Trench P - excavating around the wall with regular piers.

There have been some interesting finds, including pottery sherds and a potential whetstone, but there have also been a lot of burnt bone pieces and burnt stones in the area we have been working. 

Elsewhere in Trench P, the area to the north and east of Structure One is being taken down with layers of ashy soils being removed. These layers are very extensive and homogenous in nature, and, as they are removed, yet more wall lines and faces are being revealed.

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Trench P - removing late rubble infill in Structure 1.

Some of these walls were hinted at towards the end of the last season's work, but now are becoming a reality.  Again, some of these exhibit very symmetrical and beautiful stonework, like that in Structure One. 

Hopefully, more of these walls may be decorated with Neolithic geometric designs, as found last year. As yet, though, these new walls do not seem to form any coherent pattern and may represent more than one structure or perhaps some totally new form of Neolithic architecture.

Within Structure 1, in Trench P, some of the collapsed stonework that infills the later phase of this building is also being removed. 

In Trench J, supervised by Paul Sharman, the deep and complex ashy spreads that partially obscure the extent of the large oval structure in this trench are now being removed. Hopefully by the end of the excavation this oval structure will be revealed in all its glory. 

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Trench J - the ashy spreads are removed to reveal the oval structure

The group is very mixed in terms of age and experience, and it has been interesting to find out more about where the others have been and the details of previous excavations that they have attended.  All this under the expert eyes of Nick Card, Martin Carruthers, Naomi Woodward and Paul Sharman, who are always on hand to advice on any find or answer questions about the previous work that has been done at the site. 

This is my first visit to Orkney, and although I have not had much time to see the established sites (that’s what weekends are for) it has been a real pleasure to work with the team here, and find myself digging at the Ness of Brodgar (in the centre of the World Heritage Site) in such a fascinating Neolithic settlement. 

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