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Monday, July 21
(Previous entries available here)

Hello! I’m Matt, one of the four Manchester University first year students lucky enough to work on this highly impressive site for our first excavation.

So far, everything seems to be going great, with us starting the third week and having none of the flooding problems that Colin Renfrew suffered, when he partially excavated Trench A over 35 years ago.

Today, we’ve been carefully excavating the top few strata of that trench down to the iron pan, while, in the other trench, samples from each of the soil contexts are being taken.

Today is also the start of the most detailed geophysical survey of the site and surrounding area yet undertaken taken, which will hopefully answer questions such as whether the stone circle was ever as perfect and complete as is often assumed.

Excavation of the associated Ness of Brodgar Neolithic settlement site has also begun today so it’s a very busy time for everyone involved.

Some archaeologists from the Ness have been kind enough to give us a helping hand excavate Trench A, so we’re very thankful to them.

I feel particularly lucky that everyone I’ve been working with seems really nice and that everyone in the team not only gets on, but has great fun working with each other.

The team also seems to grow all the time as archaeologists volunteer their help purely because of how much of a tremendous opportunity it is to work on such a prestigious site.

In fact, on a calm sunny day like today it would be hard not to be grateful to be involved in this amazing experience. The only possible complaint would be to all the flies that are out today. Special thanks to everyone that’s been involved in the excavation and made it such a memorable and enjoyable experience.

The best part of the dig, for me, is after every day’s work admiring how increasingly impressive the whole site seems, as the awe inspiring dimensions of the henge becoming increasingly more revealed and when realising we’ve been working in the shadows of those charismatic standing stones.

How strenuous it’s been just to excavate the ditch with modern tools makes us all more appreciate the feat of it’s construction by cutting it into the rock using the stone and bone tools of the Neolithic.

There’s a whole load of interesting things left to excavate that seem to have been left as treats for later on, like the enigmatic paving around trench A's standing stone stump and the yet-to-be-bottomed wet trench. Theories and enthusiastic speculation abound as to what may be found under both, so I also can’t wait until we get round to those.

Thanks for reading.

Matt McTernan

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