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Friday, August 1
(Previous entries available here)

Picture ORCA
The backfilling work begins

Another voice to add to the blog: Laura Watts, here, an ethnographer from Lancaster University. I’m in Orkney until November researching the unique futures of these unique islands.

And the Ring of Brodgar is certainly a unique place, with a very unique future. It has endured for thousands of years, and will endure for thousands more.

Thanks to Jane Downes and Colin Richards, I’ve been helping on the dig.

What’s so exciting about being on site is being part of the long process by which our understanding of the Ring of Brodgar changes.

Through shifting buckets of earth and troweling a trench, in taking samples of soil for the lab, we are making new knowledge about this wonderful monument. And so we are changing how the story of this monument will be told in the future. What will be in the guidebooks ten years from now, I wonder…

I have learnt so much about how archaeology goes from soil, to sample, to sewing together interpretations of the past. Not least, I’ve learnt that doing archaeology can be hard work. My hard-hat off to Bob and the four Manchester students, Ruth, Matt, Seamus and Sam, for their (seemingly always cheerful) sheer hard work in moving so much spoil from both trenches, to reveal their gleaming rock-cut magnificence. 

Picture ORCA

And then, on Tuesday, we reluctantly had to begin the very sad process of putting it all back again, to make it as it was.

This is what I wrote in my notebook after that day with a spade in my hands, helping to backfill Trench A:

"Blue spade, just the right weight, and I paddled my dirt downhill. Like a canoe. I bent forward and pulled my spade down from the end of the conveyer belt, where the soil piled never-ending, ceaseless, remorseless. And pulled hard, navigating through the soil, finding the end of the day. It ended at seven. We did stop in between, but the weight of soil pulled us down, down and in and on."

But, of course, this is only the beginning.

The samples have to return from the various labs, all the results have to be woven together, and so the Ring of Brodgar’s new story has yet to be told…

The Ring of Brodgar
The Ness of Brodgar
Orkney's World Heritage Site
Archaeology around the Ness of Brodgar
The Standing Stones of Stenness
Rethinking the great stone circles of Northwest Britain - a paper by Dr Colin Richards