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12 August 2011
The 'Brodgar Boy' unearthed in Orkney

In Orkney (Scotland) at the excavation of the Ness of Brogar, a new find has excited researchers. In addition to a pot discovered in Structure 14, a volunteer from Cheshire has made a very exciting discovery - a ceramic piece that is anthropomorphic in nature. The day also included the find of pigments indicating possible in situ production of decorative paints.
     The small clay 'figurine' is about only 30mm high but would seem to display a head, body and two eyes. One end of the object is broken - it may originally have been part of a larger clay object that, once broken, had 'eyes' added to create a small figurine now called the 'Brodgar Boy'.
     The discovering volunteer was investigating a piece of flagstone lying at an angle against a wall when he noticed a piece of pot underneath it. The pot was gradually disinterred from its resting place. Sitting upright in the midden which had enveloped it, the vessel looked, initially, as if it had a round bottom. In fact, a lump of mud adhering to the base of the pot detached itself during removal, revealing not a round bottom but a perfectly formed flat base. It also became clear that the little pot was decorated.
     The team wrapped the vessel in acid-free tissue as more of it emerged from the ground. This tissue was strengthened carefully by a further wrapping of parcel tape as gradually the pot was lifted from the ground. This small pot has sides which swell from the base to make a gentle flowerpot form. Wrapped in damp, acid-free tissue paper (to prevent drying and disintegration) it awaits some tender loving care from conservators.
     In the Structure 10 site, cleaning behind the 'dresser' continued and a most intriguing find was made. Gathered together in a discrete area were examples of red and yellow ochre, stones with a depression in their centre - like little grinding dishes - and a small, stone rubber. Could this be a pigment production area - the location, and the materials, which went into the amazing painted stones which are turning up around the site?
     It is more than likely that the essential ingredients of the paint for the stones was manufactured on site - further investigation will follow. At the last minute toward the end of the day, a volunteer digging in Structure Eight discovered what looks like another stone ball, similar to one found earlier in the week. These amazingly tactile artefacts are becoming a firm favourite with site visitors who are continuing to visit in increasing numbers.

Edited from Orkneyjar (28 July 2011)

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