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Friday, July 18
(Previous entries available here)

Well, today it rained.

Normally, we wouldn’t work in this weather, but on this occasion there were a number of important tasks that had to be accomplished.

My name is Colin Richards and I’m joint directing the excavation with Jane Downes.

As Gordon Childe said, when working at the nearby passage grave of Maeshowe, it is a privilege to be undertaking fieldwork within the great Ring of Brodgar.

Today's tasks included planning around the stump of a monolith (the one with the runic inscriptions) and lowering and stepping the level of the ditch to comply with health and safety standards.

The project is very multifaceted - obviously a main component concerns investigating the ditch deposits for datable material and botanical remains, but there are other aspects which are less hard work but just as interesting!

First, even in the small area we have uncovered the ditch is anything but regular.

Indeed, it bulges outwards in the excavated area and and appears to contract in the adjacent (unexcavated) area. This suggests that rather than being originally dug as a single entity, the ditch was probably dug in segments, perhaps over many years (even hundreds) and involving different groups of people.

This leads into another aspect of the project concerning the stones themselves.

It was noticed a few years ago that the circle is composed of different types of sandstone.

We are now convinced these stones came from different parts of Orkney, again perhaps over a long period of time. The geophysical survey, which will begin on Monday, will tell us if the circle was ever complete.

It may not be - in fact due to its suspected ‘piecemeal’ construction it may never have formed a complete circle.

This is an interesting interpretation because it means that a visit to the site in c.3000BC (of course we do not know yet), may have been similar to that experienced today – with some sections of the circle complete but large gaps present awaiting stones to be dragged to the great circle.

Maybe that is half the fun of archaeology – attempting to imagine what things would have looked like and how people experienced their very different world.

Over the next two weeks we will begin to unravel some of the missing information about this site, but as always the past will always be elusive and slip through our fingers like sand!

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