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Tuesday, July 28, 2009
(Previous entries available here)


In the last few minutes of today’s excavation two spectacular new finds were made.  A first for the site, though paralleled at Skara Brae, is a sherd of Grooved Ware pottery with applied pellets of decoration, found by Jan on her last day. The second is a rather fine example of a slab with incised decoration, discovered by Sarah within the robbing debris from the west wall of Structure 10.

Picture: ORCA

Newly discovered decorated stone from collapse in Structure 10.
Click here for a larger image.

Picture: ORCA

Day seven on site and Graham Macdonald here to tell you about it.

I’m one of the Orkney College MA students. I do the course part-time and for the past few seasons, I’ve always had friends digging here but I was not prepared for what an amazing site it is. You hear about the breathtaking location and the astounding archaeology but until you actually come on site you don’t fully appreciate just what an incredible place it is.  (Which is also a non too subtle hint to remind you about the site tours at 11am and 3pm every day).

Picture ORCA
Structure 7.

The new arrivals have settled in well, but any suspicions we were winding them up about the Orcadian adage that you get four seasons weather in one day here, were quickly dispelled! We started the day in nice sunshine, then rain, then blazing hot sunshine.  Now as I write the, wind has become quite strong and some of the staff are chasing empty buckets and kneeling pads across the site, much to everyone else’s amusement! 

Picture ORCA
Clare excavating one of the pot spreads.

Work continued today with Linda finally reaching the bottom of her pit. To recap, this was the suspected “modern” excavation done in the past century. At the bottom Linda found some modern pottery so this certainly seems to be the case. Work in the new trench at the north end of Structure 8 continued with more Grooved Ware pottery finds, including some lovely pieces with rims.  The curving wall at the north end has now been fully exposed and the arc can be followed, indicating the size and overall layout of this mysterious structure. 

Although the layout of Structure 10 seemed obvious from the aerial shots we took of the building at the end of last year – with some actual wall faces very quickly becoming apparent while others seemed indicated by well defined spreads of rubble – this year some of the actual wall lines are proving extremely elusive.

Picture ORCA
Jan and Jane hunt for the elusive south wall of Structure 10.

The north side has continued to be in easily seen and followed as a gentle curve (surviving to at least 80 cms in height as seen through some voids in the rubble that has built up against the outer face) - the west and south walls are proving much more elusive and although they almost undoubtedly survive at a lower level, the upper levels of these walls now appear to have been extensively robbed in prehistory.  

Meanwhile, further excavation of the extensive midden enhanced soils in, and around, Structure 8 is producing yet more extensive spreads of pottery that Mike and Clare are trying to define and carefully remove – a difficult procedure as it is so badly preserved and very fragmentary.

Picture ORCA
Removal of deposits that fill Structure 8.

After yesterday’s magnetic susceptibility survey on Structure 7, work has started in preparation of excavation of it. Within an hour a hearth and some small finds started coming out, including some nice flints, so excitement is high as to what else may be discovered. In our seven days here we have all learned to expect the unexpected of this splendid place! 

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