The Cairns Day Two – 2019

Excavators working on the southern side of the broch

Day Two at The Cairns dawns bright with a blue sky and today it is University of the Highlands and Islands student Sara Marioni turn to write the dig diary.….

A pretty awesome second day of excavation at The Cairns! After yesterday’s unpredictable weather and this morning’s freezing cold wind, we’ve been blessed with a drier and warmer afternoon, which also brought quite a few visitors to the site.

The day started with a tour of the various trenches, which included a brief summary of the main aims and areas of interest for this year’s excavation. Later, we organised ourselves in two groups, each assigned to a different area of the excavation.

Looking across the broch to the East and Windwick Bay, with just a little rain on the lens

I was working with Vicky, Aimedaphi and Mika in trench Q of the extramural settlement, trowelling a midden deposit rich in bone fragments and charcoal. Our main objective was to obtain a clearer view of the walls of one of the Iron Age buildings, so that the features and their relation to one another could be studied.

I believe my team had a great first day of digging, as only half an hour into the job a pottery rim emerged from the soil we were removing, followed, later this afternoon, by a modified animal tooth with tool marks on its surface. In addition to trowelling and learning how to record small finds, we also took a soil sample of the context we were working on.

Today’s blogger: Sara and student colleagues excavating the in-fill of Structure Q in the extramural complex (broch village)

Meanwhile, the second group of diggers was focusing on the area south-west of the broch, removing deposits to try and identify the edges of the ditch and where the broch terrace was cut into the hill-slope. While most people where working outside Structure A (the broch), Therese was on the inside of the broch re-establishing the sampling grid-lines and Paul was just a few metres away from the site building a furnace and lining it with clay for his experimental archaeology project.

Thanks to Sara Marinoni, First Year Archaeology student, UHI.

The Cairns Day One – 2019

Looking down the entrance to the broch into the interior where the covers are being removed

Welcome back everyone to the daily blog for The Cairns excavations from me, Martin Carruthers the site director!

It’s absolutely fantastic to back on site and be able to share our findings with you once more. Each day of the project we’ll be bringing you updates and perspectives from different members of the team.

We welcome back many familiar faces to take part once again in the project and we also say hello to an equal number of new faces to the site. Altogether, the team already shows great promise in terms of good humour and commitment, necessary qualities in these very opening stages of the work, as well as beyond.

The Western extension with already established buildings to the left and just the tops of building stones beginning to show up in the extension itself

Today was the first day of the new season, and although a little advance party of us took a lot of the covers off the trench last week we nevertheless had a lot more tidying up of the site to do today with the big team. After site introduction and the obligatory health and safety briefings, it was onwards to moving the tyres out of the fenced area of the site and gathering up weathered fragments of plastic to generally neaten up things.

The weather was sometimes a challenge today with bouts of quite heavy rain, and even hail at one point. Nevertheless very good progress was made by the big team and most of the covers were off the site by the end of the day.

Dramatic skies over the site today

Over in this year’s trench extension on the western side of the site the work to clean over the newly revealed deposits was also going well. It looks very much like we have the continuation of substantial building remains in parts of this area and in the northern end of the extension perhaps the upper fills of the great ditch that encircles the broch period settlement. The deposits here are gratifyingly here with a little shell midden deposit, and pieces of pottery, boding well for the richness of these soils.

The top of the little shell midden in the Western Extension today

Tomorrow, we’ll press on with the site cleaning and then really start to get our teeth into the deposits and features. We’ll keep you posted on how we get on!

New Laser Scanning Collaboration in Orkney

The Big Tree in Kirkwall

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and ORCA Archaeology teamed up with Robert Gordon University to begin a series of collaborative projects using advanced digital technology to record heritage across Orkney.

On the suggestion of pupils from Kirkwall Grammar School from a heritage workshop last year, the team decided that part of the initial pilot project would involve laser scanning the Big Tree in the centre of Kirkwall.

Laser scanning The Big Tree using a Leica BLK360

The Big Tree is something of an icon in Orkney and is in fact a 200 year old sycamore tree that has been a meeting place in the town for generations. The tree itself won the accolade of ‘Scotland’s Tree of the Year in 2017 and looks as if it will remain standing sentinel over the comings and goings in the town centre for a good while yet.

The Big Tree project involved the use of advanced digital data capture techniques and forms the trial run for a whole series of collaborative projects between UHI, ORCA Archaeology and RGU.

Laser image of the Big Tree, Kirkwall

The wider project involves recording the built environment in Stromness and Kirkwall and will utilise the laser scanning expertise developed by the team at RGU together with the archaeological, architectural and social history expertise of the UHI Archaeology Institute. The results so far have been stunning and the scans can be viewed in this video produced by RGU……

The work will also be on show at The Architecture Exhibition ‘An Orcadian Caravanserai’ at The Stromness Community Centre from the 17th – 21st June 2019.

Final year students from the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture will present an exhibition exploring the social and cultural connotations of an ever growing tourism industry through a series of architectural interventions.


Egilsay Archaeology Day – 1st July 2019

St Magnus Kirk, Egilsay

University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute archaeologists Dan Lee, Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon and Dr Jen Harland will be holding a day of informal talks, workshops and field walks celebrating the rich archaeology of the Orkney island of Egilsay.

The island is renowned as the site of St Magnus’ martyrdom in the early 12th Century, but has numerous sites dating from the Neolithic to the present day.

The day will start at 10am at the community hall and then progress to a guided field walk around the sites. The workshop is timed so that folk can catch the ferry from Mainland Orkney or Rousay. Booking the ferry 24 hours before sailing is advisable by ringing the Tingwall office on 01856 731360. The ferry timetable is available here.

Everyone is welcome, whether you have archaeology experience or not, and there is no charge for the workshop, talks and field walk. Bring a packed lunch, good boots, warm clothes and some waterproofs just in case an Orkney shower decides to amble past.

If you are interested in taking part then please contact studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk or ring Mary on 01856 569225

Supported by:

Experimental Archaeology at The Cairns

The Cairns Excavation looking across the ditch to the exterior broch wall

University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute student Paul Jack is preparing to start his exciting Carnegie Vacation Scholarship project at The Cairns dig in a few weeks time.

Paul took a few minutes out from his busy day to talk me through his project which will involve working at The Cairns excavation to re-create an Iron Age furnace.

Paul takes up the story, “So, under guidance from Martin Carruthers, I’ll first be building a traditional ‘bowl’ type furnace based upon archaeological examples from Iron Age Britain. The furnace itself will be constructed from local clay and I’ll be using some form of a bag bellows to blow air into the furnace.”

“The plan is then to construct a series of little thumb bowls out of the clay with varying quantities of grass, wood, stone, and hopefully bone as a temper before placing them in the furnace to be fired. This is to examine if the different temper materials affect the properties in such a way that may be beneficial, or detrimental, to the construction of a mould for bronze working. I’ll also use shell so that there is a point of overlap with Bronitsy and Hamer (1986) to compare my results against.”

Two moulds for casting penannular brooches unearthed last year at The Cairns

Paul continued, “There is a section of academia that believe that experimental archaeology should purely be concerned with providing hard data, but there’s been a growing corpus over the past few decades focusing on interpreting the bodily experience through the archaeological record. I want to try and marry this data driven side of experimental archaeology with the experiential side of experimental archaeology.”

The metal working area at The Cairns

“To do this I will be reflecting on the process of constructing the furnace and processing some bog ore. I’ll also be measuring heat within the furnace (as we are doubtful about the possibility of actually being able to smelt some iron ore). This means that my ability to keep a consistent temperature within the furnace will be used as a proxy for the success of our pretend smelt. The difficulty involved in the process coupled with the hard data produced from the temperature of the furnace will be reflected upon and will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the experience of prehistoric metalworking. The research will then progress by converting the bowl type furnace to a short shaft furnace and the whole experiment will be repeated to compare the two different furnace types.”

Bronze pin re-created from the moulds found at The Cairns.

This is of course not the first time that research has been completed concerning metal smithing at The Cairns. Three years ago Ben Price, one of MSc students created a 3D model of a pin and then cast it in bronze, revealing for the first time in 2000 years a metal article that was to be produced at The Cairns. To remind yourself of that ground breaking research check out the blog post here

The Carnegie Trust Vacation Scholarships provide funding for undergraduate students who wish to develop their own research projects over the summer. Students learn how to manage a research project and prepare for postgraduate study and will have the opportunity to see their research results published in academic journals or presented at conferences

UHI Archaeology Students Society Wins Two Awards

The Culloden Memorial. Photo: UHI Student Kath Page

Perth College UHI students gathered on 21st May 2019 to celebrate the prestigious OBI Awards which recognise Outstanding, Best and Inspiring staff and students.

There is a vibrant social side to the student experience at the University of the Highlands and Islands – from social media groups that arrange regular meetings of students to the more traditional clubs and societies. UHI Archaeology student and Chairperson of the Archaeology & History Society, Corrie Glover, talks about the success of one of those university societies………

“Over 120 people attended the event, which was led by HISA Perth President, Prince Honeysett and included guest speakers from NUS and Board of Management.

Part of the Culloden battlefield. Photo: UHI student Sue Dyke

With some categories having over twenty nominations our newly formed Perth Archaeology & History Society did not see ourselves as likely winners. However, the Society, established in October 2018 took home two awards that evening for “Society of the Year” and “Best Student-Led Event”.

Our Society was initially formed for members to help each other find volunteer opportunities, arrange field trips and network with regional employers. However, a community of friends has developed within the Society as we planned our first event ‘Culloden Memorial Evening’ in April 2019. With a small budget we sold tickets for an evening which included a presentation from historian Paul Philippou about origins of Jacobitism, talk from writer Ellen Orrock on the challenges she faces when writing fictionally about Culloden before showing Peter Watkins ‘The Battle of Culloden’ (1964). We patriotically provided Tunnocks and Irn Bru before ending with a local bagpiper.

UHI Archaeology students at the Culloden Battlefield site during a field trip to the area last year. Photo: UHI student Kath Page

The awards were granted to our Society for a truly student-led event which raised the profile of the UHI and the Archaeology degree students who study there. Since the awards Perth Archaeology & History Society has begun to welcome new members both in and out of the UHI as well as plan more trips and events for the new term.

The cottage at Culloden. Photo: UHI student Sue Dyke

We hope to reach out to new degree students in September as well as existing Archaeology and History students and societies across the UHI to collaborate and raise the profile of both these subjects. “

The Team receiving the awards

If you are interested in joining the Archaeology & History Society, then drop Corrie a note using the form below or check out their Facebook page here.

There is also an Archaeology Society at Orkney College UHI if you find yourself living a little further north. They can be contacted on studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

The above post was written by UHI Archaeology student Corrie Glover.

UHI Archaeology Students Awarded Carnegie Scholarships

Ness of Brodgar

Congratulations to University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute undergraduates Gary Lloyd and Paul Jack, who have been awarded Carnegie Vacation Scholarships to complete research at the Ness of Brodgar and The Cairns.

The Carnegie Trust Vacation Scholarships provide funding for undergraduate students who wish to develop their own research projects over the summer. Both Gary and Paul submitted their research project design to the Carnegie Trust February and were accepted last week. Students learn how to manage a research project and prepare for postgraduate study. Students will have the opportunity to see their research results published in academic journals or presented at conferences.

Gary at the Ness of Brodgar. Photo: Woody Musgrove

Gary has worked at the Ness of Brodgar as a UHI Archaeology Institute student for the past three years and his research project is examining the Spatulate stone tools excavated from the site. These tools are described as course stone artefacts, but check out the Working Stone website for more details on this category of implement.

Gary said,” The assemblage at the Ness of Brodgar has not been examined as a group and the more complex examples may be unique to the Ness. There are 70+ stone tools that have been labelled as belonging to the Stone Spatula category and I am going to spend eight weeks completing an assessment, recording and cataloguing them, and determine if they have been found elsewhere locally or in the region “

There will be a further blog post detailing Paul’s work at The Cairns very soon….it is also very exciting research and ever so slightly different!!!

Photograph of Gary by kind permission of Woody Musgrove. Check out his website and photographs here. 3D model by kind permission of Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark. See 258 further models on his Sketchfab site here.

Community Archaeology in Orkney: Building Recording Days in Kirkwall & Stromness

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

ORCA Archaeology, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scotland’s Urban Past team have organised five Building Recording Days in historic Kirkwall and Stromness.

These are community archaeology events to which everyone is invited – experience is not required as full training will be given – but we ask that you book a place as below.

The team have set dates in Kirkwall during May and June (book to attend these events by writing to studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk) and the Scotland’s Urban Past team are coming up again to run a one day workshop in Stromness (you will have to book to attend this event through the Scotland’s Urban Past Eventbrite page

Stromness

These days are designed to follow on from our training in March, and archive day in April, but feel free to come along if you missed these, we can easily get you up to speed. We’ve set up a regular survey afternoon, with the aim of conducting rapid recording and taking photos for properties in the Kirkwall conservation area.  

​The Scotland’s Urban Past team will run a workshop in Stromness on the 4th June, and will show us how to add the results of all our surveys onto the national record online. 

DateTimeWhereHow to Book
Wed 22/5/1913.00-16.00KirkwallE-mail
Wed 29/5/1913.00-16.00KirkwallE-mail
Mon 3/06/1913.00-16.00KirkwallE-mail
Tues 4/06/1910.00-15.00StromnessEventbrite
Wed 12/06/1913.00-16.00KirkwallE-mail

This project is supported by:

Study Scottish Archaeology from Anywhere on the Planet

Skaill Farm, Rousay, dig director Dan Lee (far right)

The MLitt Archaeological Studies course at the University of the Highlands and Islands can be undertaken from anywhere in the world – as long as you have internet access and a computer.

The course offers you the opportunity to study the incredibly rich archaeology of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland from your own home and gain a postgraduate qualification from the UHI Archaeology Institute based in Orkney.

If you wish to study here in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The UHI is also pleased to offer a limited number of places with full tuition fees for Scottish/EU students studying full time on the course in September 2019.

To be eligible for this funding, students must meet the criteria for Scottish or EU fee status and be resident in the Highlands and Islands (including Moray) or Perth and Kinross for the duration of their studies. For details see our website.

You could find yourself working alongside Site Director Nick Card at the Ness of Brodgar!

There are a wide range of module options which draw on the research specialisms of the UHI Archaeology Institute staff and these provide you with the flexibility to combine taught modules and dissertation research according to your own research interests. You may have an interest in prehistory or in Celtic through to Viking/Norse through to Medieval archaeology. Or you may choose to combine period-based modules with our professional skills modules to gain a broader knowledge and understanding of the methods and theory practiced within archaeology.

The choice is yours and you can fit the course into your own lifestyle and study from your own home. However, don’t take my word for it, check out Don’s story…….Don is from New Mexico and is an MLitt student who studies from his home in the USA.

To discuss your options contact us using the form below, ring Dr Ingrid Mainland 01856 569225 or check out the UHI website

Community Archaeology in Orkney : Kirkwall in the Archives

The team from ORCA Archaeology & the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are holding a Historical Urban Archive Research Day at the Orkney Library Archive on Saturday 4th May 2019, 10am – 3pm.

Booking is essential as there are only limited places on this free training event. No experience is required…just an enthusiasm for the historic built environment!

This day is part of the Kirkwall Community Archaeological Building Recording project, which aims to undertake a rapid survey of the built heritage in Kirkwall. It is a follow on event from the Scotland’s Urban Past workshops, and provides a Kirkwall focus for research. 

Led by Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon, the day of research in the Orkney Archives will focus on a case study area (e.g. a street, or group of houses) in the conservation area (Laverock, Midtown and The Bough). This supports the three detailed building recording exercises undertaken in 2016-17 and will allow participants to use a wide range of sources and learn how to link them.

This event is designed to be a training workshop for members of the public and no previous experience is required. The workshop will set the group up for rapid building recording and additional archive research in Kirkwall town centre during May and June.

The workshop is funded by the Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative.

Contact studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk or ring 01856 569225 to book your place.