Sunday, 11 August 2013

Investigations at the Ness of Brodgar Days 4 and 5

Ben Chan discusses this week's progress on the site tour
This week has gone by so quickly, but we have managed to collect some great sets of samples, more than we can get made into slides at the moment! The first lot have already been sent off to Earthslides to get made into thin sections. An important lesson from the field - if you get over enthusiastic about collecting blocks of soil that weigh >1kg each, they will not fit in your luggage and will incur hefty postage fees. And lesson 2, blocks of soil wrapped in tissue and tape look very odd on the airport X ray and your bags will likely be searched. I ended up taking about 20 block samples in all, and spent much of my last day in Orkney panicking about how to transport them back.

 Friday was my last day on site, and the day started with a site tour with each supervisor summarising what has been going on in the building/trench that week. A week is just not long enough to get my head around everything going on at the Ness; I think I've just about come to grips with the major buildings and how my midden samples fit in. Luckily I have been working with a great team of archaeologists who have been incredibly helpful with explaining the current thinking for what is going on, and advising on the best areas to sample. Dan Lee and Dave Reay from ORCA deserve a special mention for putting up with my questions and putting multiple holes in their nice sections.
Midden after micromorphology sampling

I hope to return to Orkney at some point when the analysis of the slides is underway so we can discuss how the results fit in with the macrostratigraphy, and get further information on the different contexts. It's easy to get bogged down in the microscopic details with micromorphology, but it is important to remember that we are just looking at a snapshot from the bigger picture. I like to think of it as a two way team process, where fieldwork provides hypotheses that inform the micromorphology sampling strategy, and micromorphology provides information which clarifies what's going on in different contexts, especially helping to resolve finely stratified deposits that are impossible to excavate as true single contexts. The best bit will be seeing all the results come together, then we can get on with the difficult bit - interpretation! What will these midden deposits tell us about the Neolithic people at the Ness?

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