One of those days when the morning is so stimulating that it doesn’t matter if rain stops work in the afternoon. Sinead, the supervisor in Structure 10 came to tell me that they had just uncovered a beautiful stone axe. It was still in situ and I was able to establish myself with sketchbook and sound recorder before everyone else arrived to admire the find.
So I have drawings of the stone, Therese who found it, and three showing her hands working with a leaf trowel, plus 30 minutes of sound covering her delight, many comments from others, the numbering and preparations for photography.
Although working on the ‘outside’, more concerned with the people than the archaeology, I feel fully integrated into the workforce on site and able to share the excitements of discovery. Jo Bourne’s comment sums it up:
“Everybody gets excited about finding something – and the things that we find are really precious to us. But they are all of our finds really. They’re the finds of the Ness and everyone who works here.
For the full story read the Dig Diary at www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk
Today I was shown round Structure 10. When you get inside and receive inside knowledge, out of the chaotic sea of stones and mounds of mud there appears a sense of order. Two lines indicate a corridor.
It’s not that I’m becoming absorbed by the archaeology itself but, as I get more deeply involved, I am appreciating the human process of archaeological diagnosis and discovery.
Where Structure 10 shows a distinct corridor amid the complexity, Structure 8, which is huge and sits over two earlier Structures 17 and 18, is to me utterly confusing – although I’m sure the team has a clearer view.
For real clarity it is always worth listening in to Roy’s talk for visitors. After a comprehensive tour of the site, he ends with a compelling argument for donations. Despite being of international importance, the Ness of Brodgar does not receive any funding and has to rely on charitable support to continue the dig. See www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk for details
Back on site after a week away. A lot has happened. Small extensions in both Trench T and Trench Y.
A hearth has been discovered in Trench Y. Does that mean they will leave it open for next year instead of filling it in, as originally intended? Apparently this is unlikely. I guess with a site this big there has to be a limit on what can be worked on simultaneously.
I can relate that. There has to be a focus otherwise little or nothing is achieved. As I get older, I walk away from potential directions to take my work, in order to achieve something significant in the practice that suits my ability best. This is why I am here at the Ness and looking to pursue my artist’s research until it bears fruit.
In Trench T they will soon be removing a layer of small iron age structures so that they can excavate a larger Neolithic structure underneath
One of the questions I am asking the archaeologists is how they view the essentially destructive nature of excavation. Today I heard of an archaeologist who wept while one building was destroyed, in order to excavate another one below. It seems to be a matter of reconciling the destruction with the need to construct knowledge. If everything was left untouched we would not learn about anything.
As I take a week off from being on site, I’ve been wondering what has been achieved so far this year. Here are some thoughts and a few images from the past three weeks.
At the start, I filled a gap in my narrative by drawing the site as it was uncovered before the dig.
Then I continued drawing and waited for stuff to happen. Initially, I thought Trench J might be the one to follow but, although interesting, progress is subtle and slow.
By contrast Trench Y has moved fast and, despite failing to produce anything clear, there have been many excitements. To date, amid a lot of rubble, they have found some rare pieces of whale bone, two hearths side by side and today some small walls suggesting a building.
Any big wall surrounding the site remains elusive – and may not have ever existed.
In this fluidity in the archaeology, I can see echoes of my project. This may be my third year on site but I still don’t know where this long term residency is heading – and my feet are definitely not touching the bottom. This is something I love.
So I will return on August 1st, meanwhile I’ll be keeping up with events through the daily dig diary at www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk
It is the end of the third week and some archaeologists are leaving, which means making sure I draw and interview people before they go. Drawing portraits is a perfect way to have a sound recorder running to hear my sitter’s stories and views on the dig.
Then there are certain activities that only happen for a short time, while the expert is available – and I need more drawings of that aspect. Today it was taking samples for micromorphology.
It has been a long week. A full five days after the busy open day last Sunday. I think it shows in today’s drawings. They became increasingly scribbly.
This was compounded with my own sense of urgency to get as much as possible done before I take a week off next week. I am particularly unwilling to leave Trench Y where things are happening so quickly.
I just hope they finish the current sondage on Monday before I leave.