Jim says the 3D photo modelling he is doing is beginning to be used in planning – and saves a lot of time where the excavation is chaotic and difficult to draw. It means they can do a simple plan and then superimpose his 3D model on top. Interesting how technology advances every year and its implications for the future of digging. (Jim’s contribution ‘From the trenches’ is in today’s Ness of Brodgar Dig Diary)

It is getting windier and colder, and tomorrow rain is forecast. This means that essentially it is the last day of the dig, before the site is covered over with tarpaulins and tyres, to protect the excavations until next year. Given the lack of time, everyone available is recruited to help clean and prepare Trench T so that it can be photographed.


In Trench T they are uncovering an Iron Age wall around a structure, which is built over, and through, the Neolithic. There must be many reasons why they chose to reuse the site, but perhaps one was that it commands a magnificent view all round. The  panorama includes the Stenness Stones, Maeshowe, the Ring of Brodgar and several Iron Age broths.

It is the last week of the dig. There is a sense of quiet urgency to complete tasks, removing finds and ensuring records are up to date. I feel this too. Alongside my list of stuff to do, is an awareness of how much still remains to be done – and a wish to simply carry on painting, regardless of any sense of purpose.  Maybe tomorrow…


Is the desire to connect to the past an old age thing? What exactly is the ‘Rapture of the Archive’? If I analyse my personal buzz (the hand that held/holds the crayon) will I understand others – why archaeologists dig, and essentially destroy, what they find in order to literally and metaphorically uncover the past? I’m sure many books have been written on this but it is my direct phenomenological experience, which leads me on in this project.



Open Day on site – so I used the need to stay in the Art Hut, to be available for visitors, as an opportunity to play with my collection of stones – now trying a Neolithic version of oil paint by mixing crushed stone with beef dripping. This is based on pure speculation that the ready access to cattle fat and silt stone might have been combined.

These ‘oil paint’ samples (bottom row) make a deeper colour than the dry chalk (top row) or when mixed with water (middle row). It will be interesting to see how the ‘oil’ colours dry, and whether beef dripping oxidises like linseed oil.

However the most vivid colour comes from a good ‘chalk’ colour directly on to stone. NB – must consult The Rock Lady about this.



Yesterday, a second quick painting of an archaeologist in the trench. At last I am beginning to paint with the same direct approach that I have for drawing. A shame the dig ends next week, just as I’m getting into my stride. Something to continue when back home in my studio.

Another innovation was being introduced to the amazing comfort of sitting in a tipped up wheelbarrow while painting. The handles rest on the ground and you sit on the side between the handles with your back resting on the base of the wheelbarrow.

Despite our very diverse art practices, the combined efforts of the Art Hut have produced an installation in the display case on site, in time for the open day on Sunday. A successful collaboration is always a satisfying experience.


A small piece of flint with a sharp edge has been found in Trench X. It doesn’t fit known examples of flint tools; but, like yesterday’s ‘crayon’ has an indentation for a finger or thumb that facilitates a good grip. Perhaps it was used to cut or scrape incisions in stone. The size is similar to the ‘crayon’ and does suggest being a tool with a purpose. A knife for the art box?

To make use of the display cabinet in collaboration with the other artist in residence, I began to experiment with the pigment sticks made by Bristol Fine Art to match last year’s colour samples of haematite. Fun to play with but not right for my first contribution of a drawing of the sky.

And here are today’s sketchbook drawings: