CHAT conference welcome!

Welcome to our 70 delegates for the CHAT 2016 conference!

We will be live tweeting throughout the event (#CHAT2016 @CHATArch) and posting on Facebook.

We are filming the event in collaboration with Landward Research Ltd and selected papers will be posted online in due course!

Conference information is here (registration is now closed, sorry!).

Field trips start today!





The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are teaming up with Caithness Broch Project and Orkney Archaeology Society to hold an extravaganza of all things “Broch” this October.

A one day event we are calling “Broch’toberfest” is to be held on Saturday 29th October, 11am to 2pm at St Magnus Centre Kirkwall, Orkney.  If you have an interest in archaeology, the Iron Age or Brochs then drop in for a few minutes or a few hours…you will be most welcome. Entry is free.

The programme is coming together and is looking exciting:

  • 11 -11.05am – Introduction and opening remarks
  • 11.05-11.30 – Excavating a Broch Household. Talk by Martin Carruthers, Site Director of The Cairns archaeological dig on South Ronaldsay
  • 11.30-11.50 – Discussion on Brochs and Iron Age Society
  • 11.50-12.20 – Lunchtime where there will be opportunities to roam around stalls, examine artefacts and talk to some of the archaeologists from the UHI and Caithness Broch Project. Light refreshments will be available including Broch Buns and Brochy Road (the puns keep coming), tea and coffee.
  • 12.20-12.45 – Tall Towers with Grass Roots. Talk by Kenny McElroy and Iain Maclean from the Caithness Broch Project. Brochs and archaeology of Caithness.
  • 12.45-1.05 – Discussion on Brochs and Contemporary Society
  • 1.05-1.30 – Broch Landscapes of Orkney West Mainland. Talk by Amanda Brend and James Moore of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute.
  • 1.30-1.50 – Discussion on Broch Landscapes
  • 1.50-2pm – Concluding remarks, discussions and future direction

Timings are approximate and may change as the discussion develops.

Archaeology Festival Planned for Caithness


The Caithness Broch Project and the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute team up to bring together a Festival of Archaeology.

There are more broch sites in Caithness than anywhere else in Scotland and yet few people outside of the archaeological community know about these massive, tower like Iron Age structures.

The Caithness Broch Project is a community led archaeological organisation which aims to promote the existence of broch sites, undertake community archaeology projects in Caithness and eventually re-create a replica broch as it would have appeared 2000 years ago.

If the funding required for the project is secured, the Caithness Broch Project and the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute will team up to organise The Caithness Broch Festival.  This will be a year-long programme of heritage and archaeology projects for 2017, focusing on exploring the broch sites of Caithness.

img_3608-hdr-1The Caithness Broch Festival will provide opportunities for local people and visitors to the area to engage with local archaeology – for many, their first opportunity to do so – whilst conducting significant archaeological research.

The Festival aims to provide members of the public with training in basic archaeological techniques and will give volunteers the opportunity to develop skills in project planning, archaeological survey, field-walking, finds recognition, finds cataloguing, GIS and reporting, as well as basic excavation techniques.

The overall aim is for these activities to develop a skilled and engaged group that can develop and sustain archaeological projects within the county. Participants will also contribute to the wider understand of broch sites in Caithness, landscapes and present the results in a temporary exhibition at Caithness Horizons Museum.

For more information follow Caithness Broch Project on twitter and facebook.

And look at their website. Photographs by Chris Sinclair.

Exploring Orkney’s Early harbours, Landing Places and Shipping

Volunteer divers will join a team of archaeologists from the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology in Gairsay on Sunday to start the second phase of an archaeological project to explore Orkney’s early maritime heritage.

The project involves a programme of marine survey fieldwork which will record early maritime sites, structures and artefacts in Orkney.  The recording of material remains, along with the use of historical, place name, ethnographic, cartographic and marine geophysical survey data sources, will help to preserve some of Orkney’s maritime cultural heritage.

This second phase of fieldwork will continue to concentrate on Gairsay, due to the presence of possible ballast mounds or collapsed jetty supports found in Milburn Bay during an earlier phase of the project. Other possible maritime features noted around the edge of the bay will also be investigated over the weekend. The marine archaeologists and volunteers are also hoping to find other maritime features as Milburn Bay has a recorded history of early maritime activity.

It is hoped this project will expand to other areas in Orkney, focusing to begin with on natural harbours with sediments (good for preservation) and involve outreach training, community work and link to other projects.

Being coastal, and in many cases situated directly on the foreshore, maritime sites and structures are most vulnerable to erosion and much information on maritime structures dating before the modern period has probably already been lost to the sea. There is therefore an urgent need for survey and fieldwork that  will help prevent further loss of information.

Thanks to Sula Diving for the video taken for Phase One of the Project.

ORCA staff, Paul Sharman, Senior Projects Manager and Sandra Henry, Marine Archaeologist, will be leading the project.


Open Day – Experience Archaeology @the UHI Archaeology Institute

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are teaming up with Orkney College for an Open Day on the 4th November.

  • Venue: The Archaeology Institute, Orkney College UHI, East Road, Kirkwall KW15 1LX
  • Date: Friday 4th November 2016
  • Time: 12 pm to 5.30 pm

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute is located in one of the most exciting archaeology areas in the world – Orkney in Northern Scotland. Surrounded by thousands of archaeology sites ranging from the Neolithic to World War 2, The Archaeology Institute is well placed as a world-class teaching and research organisation to advance our understanding of the historic environment.

You can study in any one of the UHI colleges across Northern Scotland if you do not wish to locate to Orkney.

So, come along to our open day to discover what studying Archaeology at The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute has to offer. Not only can you visit our academic departments, talk to our staff and current students, view our learning facilities, but you can also experience workshops on aspects of practical archaeology.

The workshops include:

  • PhD students analysing pollen and charcoal unearthed at the Ness of Brodgar
  • Finds from The Cairns excavation
  • 4000 year old Ceramics
  • Examining Teeth!
  • Creating a 3D image from a laser scanner

You will also see how we use the unique archaeological landscape of Orkney to further your studies. The event is open to anyone who is considering studying Archaeology at undergraduate or post graduate level in addition to anyone who is considering one of our short courses.

If you wish to attend then please contact Mary on 01856 569225, send us a message on our Facebook page , send us a message through Twitter @UHIArachaeology or e-mail Mary at

Investigating Evidence for multi-period Woodland Management – Ballygawley

Dr Scott Timpany from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Dr Tim Mighall from Aberdeen University are to present a research paper at the UHI Staff and Student Research Conference on the 7th -9th November 2016.

Entitled, Investigating the evidence for woodland management from a multi-period Burnt Mound Complex, Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, the research paper explores the possibility of the local population managing the woodland for fuel.

Burnt mounds or ‘fulacht fiadh’ are a common feature in the Irish and British archaeological record, dating from the Neolithic to the medieval period (Ó Néill, 2009) and were widely used during the second millennium BC. They occur in various shapes and sizes. Crescent- or horseshoe-shaped burnt mounds are typical in Ireland but they can also be circular, oval and d-shaped varying in height and diameter (O’Sullivan and Downey, 2004).  Despite being ubiquitous, we know little about their function, with hypotheses varying from cooking, brewing, bathing, dyeing and textile processing together with butchery, sweat lodges and funerary and ritual practices.

This paper provides a summary of the palaeoenvironmental evidence from a complex of 23 burnt mounds excavated by Headland Archaeology Ltd, that have a chronology of activity ranging from the Neolithic to the medieval period at Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone. A range of different wooden trough styles and construction methods were found in association with the burnt mounds, which were located adjacent to a system of streams.

A range of palaeoenvironmental methods were employed to accompany the archaeological investigations including pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs, micro- and macroscopic charcoal, waterlogged worked wood analysis, insects and waterlogged and charred plant remains analysis. The focus of this paper will be on those methods directed at investigating possible woodland management to provide fuel for the burnt mound activity and wood for trough construction.

Pollen analysis provided both regional and local evidence for landscape change and including a ‘seesaw’ pattern of tree and shrub pollen immediately after and preceding a period of burnt mound use. This together with the macroscopic charcoal data and worked wood analysis, indicate possible species selection and management of the local woodland resource for fuelwood. Archaeological finds discovered including bone pins, an arrowhead and scrapers provided potential evidence for butchery and hide preparation practices associated with the burnt mound activity.


Dr. Antonia Thomas Book Launch and Talk


Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney-Process, Temporality and Context is now on sale online.

To celebrate the publication of this excellent work, the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are joining up with OAS, to hold an event in which Dr. Antonia Thomas will give an illustrated talk about the research behind her PhD.

  • Discounted copies of the book will be on sale
  • Venue: Orkney College UHI, East Road, Kirkwall, Orkney
  • Time: 7.30pm
  • Date: 2nd November 2016
  • Refreshments will be available

Published by Archaeopress, this publication forms the first in a series by the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and it is available in print and e-format from and is priced at £45 for the paperback and £19 for the eBook. There will be a discount for any books bought at the event.

Archaeopress writes…..The Neolithic sites of Orkney include an impressive number of stone-built tombs, ceremonial monuments and – uniquely for northern Europe – contemporary dwellings. Many of these buildings survive in a remarkable state of preservation, allowing an understanding of the relationship between architectural space and the process of construction that is rarely achievable. Until recently, however, relatively little has been known about the decoration of these sites.

This book addresses that gap to offer a groundbreaking analysis of Neolithic art and architecture in Orkney. Focussing upon the incredible collection of hundreds of decorated stones being revealed by the current excavations at the Ness of Brodgar, it details the results of the author’s original fieldwork both there and at the contemporary sites of Maeshowe and Skara Brae, all within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

It provides the first major discussion of Orkney’s Neolithic carvings, and uses these as a springboard to challenge many of the traditional assumptions relating to Neolithic art and architecture. By foregrounding the architectural context of mark-making, this book explores how both buildings and carvings emerge though the embodied social practice of working stone, and how this relates to the wider context of life in Neolithic Orkney.

258 pages, illustrated throughout in colour and black and white.

University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Research Series 1

Book available to buy online

Paperback: ISBN 9781784914332

eBook:  9781784914349