The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Ness of Brodgar

Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork


August 24th 2010
Went to Brodgar day before end of dig as though they have made lovely discoveries on last days much will be be going back under black plastic early on the day. Past Bridgend went around the back of the Kokna-Cumming mound to come upon the Lesser Wall of Brodgar from behind by a gentler slope. Glad they have realised that this is a late feature as otherwise what would one make of the Brodgar standing stone pair straddling its view eastwards and the tomb outside its supposed remit. To me the point of it is to face the Staneyhill Tomb - I forget what they call it in political science but it is like gardeners "borrowing a view" by bringing a further vista into the visitor's eyeline. What does this mean for the hypothesis that the Greater Wall of Brodgar was meant to form a northern boundary to the whole Ness assemblage ? It doesn't seem to have any similar alignment [and perhaps too thick to find a statistically valid one anyhow] but is it equally late, performing a non-liminal function yet to be identified. At the bottom of the Lesser Wall's southern side there is now a pavement just under the level of the Wall base by the remains of what is to my eye another wall at a slight angle to the later Wall. Near the bottom of the Wall it looks to me as if there are what is left of two cruder walls parallel to one another over and at right angles to my putative earlier wall, and hence the pavement below. To my dismay the area of trench behind the Wall has still not been dug below the level of its top. Probably a "health and safety" thing. Here there are two arcs of collapsed wall, perhaps an inner and outer section. Not that this necessarily means one or both had not been straight when still standing. Oh, I can barely wait for their investigation. And then maybe sometime they can go down to the Wall base here to see if the Lesser Wall might be part of some other structure yet.
On to the main Ness of Brodgar site a bit of height not only gains you perspective but also frees you of photographing beige stone against beige stone and having to decipher it later ! First up is the new to this season next-to-roadside observation platform with a long ramp for wheelchair access. Then there are the large spoil heaps by the northern and western sides, as long as you don't mind the shifting soil underfoot in places. The space between Lochview and the dig is too smaa for anything but a photographic tower for the bosses, so you can't use that. It amazes me that at first glance it all looks practically the same as last time. Up on the platform on this side of the site the bulk is taken up by Structure 10 on your left with its, ahem, standing stone. No work is ongoing in the 'cathedral' now. In front of the platform's near end Structure 8 is divine. Along the western edge are what I see as three sub-square interior cells but on plan I see are duplicated on the opposite side, forming two rectangular and one long oval sub-divisions of the whole. This is basically how it has looked since last year. But on my third visit of the season exterior to the northern wall at the trenches edge are (I think) three small strucures that make you think of mini-roundhouses. All this mixing of linear and circular or sub-circular forms throughout the site strike me as less a striving for a practical form [and/or effective ritual space] and more the search for an artistic vision, squaring the circle to put the art into architecture. Very nice, whatever. Next is the small Structure 7, pinned between 8 and the Structure 1+9 combo.
The latter can be seen from the first spoil heap. Up here the first thing you spot is a large circular wall arc [?9 - the structure plan on Orkneyjar is from the season's start] in front of which work has been going on in a linear structure apparently leading up and terminating before it with what I take to be either a wide facade (pehaps fronting a courtyard entrance) or two flanking ?guard-cells. Looking left from this by the edge of the trench is a short length of low parallel orthostats that catch my eye but have been left behind for now.
From the top of the next spoil heap is a clear view of Structure 1, a large structure (oval or semi figure-of-eight) with rectangular niches or cells scattered along the interior edge. These are formed by the drystane walling (but multi-coloured) and tall thin orthostats. Near the trench edge to the right a double wall or pair of walls with pavement between them is nicely exposed. At the far end of the mound I look south to Structure 12, a large clean-looking oval with a couple of long cells. On my previous visit I only noticed the one nearest the spoil heap after I got back from an image taken near Lochview. That nearest the road looked as if someone had taken the Great Wall of Brodgar and removed the flesh to leave a rectangular skin.
The space between 12 and 10, or in 10, has three or four standing stones. I think they are roughly in a square. It is remarkable how many odd stones are scattered about the site, different in colour (red maks a change from beige) or shape (proper looking standing stones or blocky forms mostly). Not too much rhyme or reason for the most part, so I am thinking this is just a monumental version of picking up a pebble on a beach and taking it home.
All the above is only how I have this eclectic site in my mind's eye. Carefully as they excavate still there are different stages in any season's dig, structure's co-mingle and turn out to be part of other's. During an extended period of experimentation you can't even sort features out by materials used. And any single structure can be such a glorious mix of drystane walls, slabs, orthostats and standing stones, along with what I might call exhibition pieces.
By the time I am done with all three cameras there are still twenty minutes until the next tour and I give a moment's thought to tagging along for the display of new finds at its end. You are never sure what will be displayed or whether you will be able to take piccies, the latter depends on the group more than the presenter.
wideford Posted by wideford
25th August 2010ce

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