Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Investigations at the Ness of Brodgar, Day 1

ORCA project officer Dan explains what's going on with middens
Marvelous midden at the Ness of Brodgar - check out those ashy layers!
Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be awarded 2 small grants from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and the Orkney Archaeological Society, to carry out a pilot microarchaeology study at the Ness of Brodgar site in Orkney. The Ness of Brodgar is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, and excavations are directed by Nick Card of ORCA/UHI. The site is one of the finest examples of Neolithic archaeology in the UK (along with the rest of Orkney!), and the extent of preservation of the buildings and middens provides a rare opportunity to study the subsistence activities of the inhabitants.
The architecture here is some of the most impressive I've ever seen. It's interesting to note that the dates for the Neolithic here go to around 2500BC - roughly the same date that the Great Pyramid of Giza was constructed. We don't always realise that people were doing equally as impressive things closer to home at this time!
Although much of my previous work has been on Near Eastern Neolithic sites, my interest in the British Neolithic has grown since working on the Feeding Stonehenge project for 2 years, and it is very exciting to have the opportunity to apply my methodological expertise at the Ness.
Yesterday was my first day on site, assessing the deposits and planning a sampling strategy alongside fellow micromorphologist Jo Mackenzie. Jo will be working on building floors, looking at variations in their construction, whilst I will be working on the middens, looking at formation processes and activities. Already in the field we can see some ashy layers in both the middens and building hearths - these will be targeted for phytolith analysis, with the aim of identifying different fuel types that were being utilised. The excavation has its own blog which details daily activities and finds which you can read here. More updates on fieldwork and sampling at this amazing site will follow over the next week!

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