Day 9: Soft day, thank God
We Irish have a ludicrous saying suggesting that we actually like the auld bit o’ rain now and then. Today might have qualified for the ‘soft day’ categorisation but there’s no way any of us on site were particularly pleased with it today. There were numerous heavy showers but the weather couldn’t make up its mind as to whether it was coming or going. The result was a lot of wettings and some very stop-start work. Anyway, the one good thing about the weather today was that some of our crew were not able to make it to site today because of other commitments. So not everybody had to be subjected to a soaking!
The work that we did manage to get done was limited but it nonetheless pushes us a little further towards our ultimate goal. In Trench 4, Kieran, Eamonn and Deirdre continued to peel the cultivation sol off the top of the fill of the enclosure ditch. Very few finds were coming out of the material being removed but Deirdre’s sharp eyes picked out a fragment of a rock crystal flake (sorry no photo). This is very small-less than half the size of your little fingernail-but is distinctive and unusual. Although more difficult to work into tools than flint (and harder for us archaeologists to recognise) it is clear that materials other than flint were often used by people in the Neolithic. In some cases it seems simply that where there was a shortage of good quality flint, people used other materials like chert and quartz as ‘second best’ alternatives. However, it is also possible that the materials chosen for toolmaking reflected the intended functions of the tools or reflected the identities of the people making the tools. We all have the good crockery at home for when visitors call. Similarly, craftspeople today often use unusual or distinctive materials as a sort of trademark. Perhaps this was going on in the Neolithic as well. The flake fragment we found is distinctive because it is a type of quartz which is almost transparent, like glass. This quality would not have been lost on the Neolithic people.
In Trench 1 we continued to take out the fill of the gully and we also drew the north-facing section exposed when we excavated the enclosure ditch. We also plotted the locations of the magnetic susceptibility soil samples we took yesterday. We managed to complete these various jobs by lunchtime between showers and then we transferred over to Trench 3 where there is also a bank and ditch feature. The plan was to start to take down the material filling the ditch in the same was as in Trench 1. We unfortunately didn’t get much done because of the rain but we did notice a larger number of bone fragments compared to Trench 1, reflecting the position of Trench 1 closer to the ‘core’ of the site.
Can’t decide whether the weather forecast was accurate; I think it was today. A blustery day is forecast tomorrow with scattered passing showers. I think we may be able to cope with that.