My random collection of stone marks and bags of dust have relevance. A ‘crayon’ was found and, because the archaeologists know my interest, I got the chance to draw it and – most importantly to hold it. It fits my hand perfectly as an ergonomic drawing implement. What is more, there is an indent for the thumb of my right hand and a different indent beside that for my left thumb. There is clearly a working end where the stone is softer and makes a darker mark than the non-business end, which is harder and scratchier. To hold this ‘worked stone’ and know that a Neolithic hand was ‘drawing’ with it 5000 years ago is beyond exciting. The connection between present and past is highly potent.
Chris, who found the ‘crayon’ outside the entrance to Structure 8.
Later in the day, I was able to go inside Structure 8 to make a painting.
Previously, because my paintings have been done outside the trenches, they have all been views of the landscape with any figures quite small in the distance. Today, being in the trench, I could attempt to paint the archaeologists up close – not easy as they keep moving but nevertheless enjoyable.
For more news of the dig visit the daily dig diary on the Ness of Brodgar web site
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Rain today provides an ideal opportunity to review material collected to date.
I’m not sure why I’m collecting small bags of crushed stone but no doubt a reason will eventually emerge.
Rain also prevents any drawing in the trenches but has led to the discovery of the gentle repetition in checking sample numbers.
As this is a long term project, it can feel overwhelming in its scale and complexity (like the dig itself). Despite the fact that archaeology is rooted in the past, my residency is about bearing witness to the human activity in the present and revealing traces of past human activity visible now. I am not trying to reconnect with a previous time which is gone and unknowable.
My job is to watch how the archaeologists work and listen to what they have to say – in both my conversations when drawing their portraits and in overheard discussions and site tours. It is about being there and being with them.
There are some pieces of stone which have been uncovered and now the parts with iron layers are rusting.
They are difficult to draw and paint because I’m not interested in just rocks and prefer people. My project is about human activity. So why do I find these stones attractive and what do they have they to do with human activity?
Neolithic people built the wall and these stones were either buried in the structure or have since split open. They have now been exposed by 21st century human activity and the new experience of moisture combined with air has created orange stripes of rust – a colour the neolithic people would have liked had they seen it.
(You could call this ironic…)
And now for some simple human activity
One of the supervisors is feeling that he hasn’t accomplished much in his trench, because it is not only complex but confusing. There is a balance to be achieved between working fast through the midden, to get to the structure of special interest underneath, and doing justice to the material to be found in the process – bearing in mind that excavation is expensive.