The Online Journal

Entry 1 May 28th 2000
This is it ! Day one of the Minehowe excavation. A whole year of intensive planning and organisation has gone into getting us to this day. Now we will begin to discover exactly what lies under the turf surrounding the enigmatic staircase and chambers at the heart of the mound.
There is a strong feeling of anticipation as the excavation team assembles. There are several excavators from Orkney itself, a number from Edinburgh and Glasgow and still more from further afield. As each group arrived on site excited huddles formed to make introductions and reintroductions, old freinds became reaquainted and notes were compared on the other sites that team members had been working on over the last few months. Of course, the conversation soon turned to Minehowe, everybody was in agreement that this is going to be a particularily intriguing excavation, initial impressions were shared and guesses (some wild ones !) were made about what might be found. The geophysics plots were handed round and the tension mounted as the team saw that they showed a whole range of interesting features surrounding the mound. The position of the trenches were marked out on the plots, they have been arranged in such a way as to allow us to explore all the most important features.
Our first find
The team assembles.

Next its down to work. The position of the trenches were marked out on the ground and the digger arrived on site to start stripping the turf and topsoil from the marked out areas. Of course this process was carefully watched by the excavtion Director,Jane Downes and the Assistant Director Nick Card. They had to scrupulously monitor the stripping of the surface to make sure that no archaeology was disturbed. Fortunately the digger operator, Ally Miller, had performed this task on many excavtions on Orkney and is an expert on this type of careful digging. Skillfull use of the digger soon has the first trenches open ready for the excavtion teams to get to work.
Our first find
The ground is broken.

The first task was for the loose soil to be removed and a clean surface created at the bottom of the trenches so that the directors and supervisors could get a clear impression of what the soil is like and any features that might be showing. Almost straight away finds started to turn up in Trench E. At this stage we were still digging in plough soil. This means that the finds we were getting are likely to have been removed from their original location. Despite this, the quality of the finds had everybody excited. There was pottery (possibly Iron Age) and lots of animal bone as well as some Slag like material that could indicate metal working processes on the site. Not a bad haul for the very first afternoon.
Our first find
Our first find.

Too soon, it was time to tidy up for the day. The first days activities had only made the whole team keener than ever to crack on. In the evening we all got together in the local pub to pore over the site plans, geophysics plots and early references to the site from antiquarian journals and old newspapers. Who knows what will happen on day two when we start excavation on the archaeological layers in the trenches ?
Trench plan
Here is a general site plan showing the position of the trenches, the patterned patches on the plan represent geophysical anomolies detected during survey. Click on this image for a large version (c 0.5Mb) of the plan that you can print out or keep a copy of to follow the action.

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