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Monday, July 28, 2008
(Previous entries available here)

Hi, welcome to the second week at the Ness of Brodgar.

My name is Julie and I’m a 2nd year undergrad student doing the UHI Environment and Heritage degree and I am based at Lochaber College in Fort William. 

I left Orkney 7 years ago, through work, and I jumped at the chance of coming home for a few weeks to take the Archaeological Excavation module and to learn the practice of excavation at the Ness of Brodgar within the World Heritage Site.  

Picture: ORCA
Danta and Claire working on the Great Wall of Brodgar in Trench J.

I enjoyed the weekend break, my muscles have just about recovered and I now have my second wind and am eager to find and learn more on site.

As you have already read from others, the first few days was really heavy work, when you are not used to it, and this really surprised me, even the trowelling and removal of soil and stone from the trenches is hard work and you need to be eagle-eyed to spot small finds. 

Picture: ORCA
FOAT volunteers trowelling in Trench P.

I am in Trench P, supervised by Dan, and our UHI tutor, James, who is keeping a watchful eye on the undergrads and has been able to answer our many questions thus far.

We spent the tail end of last week taking back a spit from a wall (Structure 8 – large wall with rectangular piers) with midden deposits backing onto it, which contained a lot of burnt animal bone and bits of charcoal.

Picture: ORCA
Julie's decorated pot.

I was excited that I found two bits of pottery, and one bit seemed to have a raised circular area with a small depression. After a careful clean by our finds officer, Naomi, my bit of pottery had a ‘lug’ with small decoration.

"Brilliant" I thought, and even better when Dan told me that a similar bit of pottery had been found at the Barnhouse site across the way, which Colin Richards stated was unique to Barnhouse. So it is great to know that I have sort of proved a great archaeologist wrong! Even if only on a small find!  

I have also been helping surface clean the circular Structure 7, which has revealed a dark black hearth stone, with red banding on the earth.

This week, I have been working in the north west part of the same trench, just off the main Structure 1, and more excavation is revealing further later circular features with alcoves and orthostats. The quality of the stonework and the facing is amazing, you could swear someone nipped in recently with an angle grinder; the edges are really that straight or smooth! Except a bit of stone that Stephen was conveniently using as an arm rest, only to be told by Nick that it was in fact a ‘notch stone’. I’m not quite sure if they were practical or decorated in this way? 

Today, we have also seen lots of volunteers arrive from the Friends of Orkney Archaeological Trust, who are being trained in the art of trowelling. I even got my husband Magnus roped in for a day who has joined the volunteers, who are finding bits of pottery on their first day. So we hope they get the ‘digging’ bug as I have!

Picture: ORCA
Structure 1, in Trench P, is progressing well.

The weather has been brilliant so far, I am enjoying the ‘craic’ with everyone and learning what digs others have been involved in and have been spending this morning learning what happens with the finds and how it is all organized and catalogued. 

Growing up in Orkney, you tended to take all the archaeological sites for granted. It is not until you have been away for a while that you realise how rich Orkney is in archaeology and how well-preserved the sites are. Playing in Skara Brae as a bairn, I feel privileged to be digging in a site as old and as exciting.

These are very exciting times for Orkney as it seems that new sites and information is coming to light all the time, it just gets better and better. And what better place to keep up to date with archaeological news than the Orkneyjar site! 

I have to congratulate Sigurd on this site, as I have referred to it a lot during my studies so far, never thinking I’d be writing a blog some day. Well done. 

Hope to see some of the readers on our daily tours at 11am and 3pm where you will get the guided tour and see us hard at work, getting our hands dirty, or give us a wave on your way by. Thanks.

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