Ness of Innsmouth, Day 2

Dig house in the distance, Stones of Stenness to the right. Ominous rain clouds overhead.

Day 2 at the Ness. I had some things to sort out in Kirkwall this morning so took the local bus to site. It only takes about 30 minutes but it drops off on the main road, and then you have to walk all the way along the peninsula to get to the excavation. Lovely view, but increasingly rainy and windy the further you get towards site, almost as if it’s in its own little otherworldly wet dimension. Glad I invested in an all-weather notebook. On site I’ve been getting on with taking micromorphology samples out of the midden section in Trench T. The excavation in this part of the site is being supervised by Dr Ben Chan, who I previously worked with on the Feeding Stonehenge project. There are other familiar faces from York too – Prof Mark Edmonds and Alison McQuilkin, who recently completed her dissertation on phytoliths from the famous Mesolithic site of Star Carr. The Ness is like a magnet for archaeologists!
Block samples wrapped up

Sampling today has been a bit more challenging that yesterday. Because of all the rain we’ve been getting, the deposits are saturated with water. My usual method for collecting blocks is cutting directly from the section with a knife and wrapping tightly with tissue and tape. This is somewhat different from the ‘standard’ method, which involves shoving a metal tin (Kubiena tin) into a section and working the sample out that way. I like the tissue and tape method as it allows you to choose the size of the sample, according to the stratigraphy; with Kubiena tins you are limited to the size of the tins. From previous experience I have also found that drier deposits can become dislodged easier in tins, and the best method to use varies depending on the deposits. Tins would probably work well at the Ness, as deposits are generally quite compact. Cutting is working quite well but I have to be careful at the interface of different deposit types, to make sure the block doesn’t fall apart! And I have to double the thickness of the tissue I’m using so that it doesn’t tear when it gets wet. This is quite the midden - whereas the middens I worked on at Çatalhöyük were impressive in their depth, this Ness midden is impressively long, covering most of the length of the trench. Ben reckons that it may represent different episodes of build-up that have ‘merged’ into what we can see in the field today. 11 collected so far, working my way down the slope tomorrow!