Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Ochre in Orkney

Oh the excitement! Today I received a parcel from Earthslides, with 20 new thin section samples from the Ness of Brodgar. These samples were collected in 2014 and are mostly from the Trench T midden. Although I don't yet have the kit in place to do a proper analysis, I couldn't resist having a quick peek with my old Swift scope. The level of complexity is daunting - so may fine layers of stratigraphy hidden within layers that appear relatively homogeneous in the field. But already I can see something interesting things - layers of burnt peat,  a very large amount of burnt bone, and even a tiny fragment of red ochre pigment, about 2mm in diameter. This pigment has been found in various contexts in Orkney (and elsewhere around the world), for example Gordon Childe at Skara Brae found containers of pigment he interpreted as 'paint pots'.  At the Ness it is thought that the pigment was ground down and used as a paint for the stone walls in buildings. Behold my attempts at taking photos down the eyepiece with my iPhone camera - sorry about all the reflections, but you get the idea!


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