Return to Orkneyjar Latest News Excavation Diary Excavation Background Archive Stories





Tuesday, July 29, 2008
(Previous entries available here)

Hello everyone, my name is Siobhan Ross.

I am a second year undergraduate in UHI. This is the second week of the dig and all I can say is - wow!

The first week came and went really fast, apart from the first few days, where the site had to be deturfed, which made me ache in some unmentionable places - it was a unreal.

But after that was done, the undergraduates (me, Alan, Steve and Julie) all moved to Trench P and started to excavate. Trowelling looks easy, but in reality it is hard to keep your layer the same all the way over.

Picture: Craig Taylor
Trench P, as photographed from the air, by kite.
( Picture courtesy of, and copyright, Craig Taylor)
Picture Craig Taylor
Trench J, as photographed from the air, by kite.
( Picture courtesy of, and copyright, Craig Taylor)

We were shown the proper way to use the tools and the difference between pottery and rock (looked the same to me!). After that, finds of pottery by the postgraduates came out in a steady flow. Some stone tools also were discovered near the structure in the centre of Trench P.

A great find was a polished stone axe head that was discovered on the Friday. Then there was the large pot that Janis found on Tuesday, which was over 25cm long! Sadly it broke up into several bits as it was removed from the site, but that the way it goes. 

Also in Trench P, there have been some cobblestone Skaill knives, which were probably used to cut up meat. What is great about this trench is that there are so many overlapping layers of soil creating beautiful bands of brown, red and orange soils which run across the trench.

In Trench N, the "Great Wall of Brodgar" is now shown in all it glory and the potential ditch is beginning to be seen on the northern side of it, which could mean that there is more to it than meet the eye.

One can only imagine what it looked like 5,000 years ago, with the massive wall paralleled by a ditch whose dimensions we can at present only surmise – was it on the scale of the Ring of Brodgar ditch and reflect the monumentality of the wall? Time will tell.

Over the week, I’ve had a huge taste of what it is like to be an archaeologist - from digging in the field to helping out in the find hunt. In the find hut, it is my job to help lay out and file away finds.

It is a great job but some times it can be a pain in the neck because when you finish laying out all the finds, the next a lot of pottery is dropped into your lap (okay, well placed very carefully as they are thousands of years old!).

On the digging side, I found out I have a love/hate relationship with digging as I keep catch my hand on the sharp rocks and stabbing them. The ground is also every hard to dig with all the rock which mean it is sore on the wrist (wahhh!) but you look past all this because you are working on an archaeological site and therefore seeing thing that have not being seen for thousands of years!

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