CHAT 2016 conference call for papers closes 17 April

CHAT 2016 poster

A wee reminder as the date for submissions draws near!

Call for papers closes end of 17th April.

Email proposals to archaeologyconference@uhi.ac.uk . We are happy to discuss alternative contributions such as film, installation, sound etc.

There will be student / hardship travel and accommodation bursaries which will be announced very soon.

Details about the theme – RURALITY – can be found on the CHAT website here: http://www.chat-arch.org/

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or queries.

We look forward to receiving your proposal!

Archaeology On Rousay

Landmark conference field visit RousayArchaeology on Rousay was in the limelight last week as the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute welcomed delegates to Orkney for the LANDMARKS workshop. Led by Mark Edmonds (University of York), Ingrid Mainland (UHI) and Dave Cowley (Historic Environment, Scotland), the workshop brought together some of the leading figures in landscape research from around the world for four days of lectures and field visits to west Mainland and Rousay.

The aim of the meeting was to exchange ideas about the practice of landscape survey, to review new technologies and to explore how patterns seen from the air and on the ground are interpreted. Papers on research from the Northern Isles were given alongside presentations on work in England, on the Continent, in Ireland, Greenland, Iceland and east Africa. Taking in everything from scatters of Palaeolithic stone tools to memory maps of Stromness, the workshop addressed basic questions of scale. Archaeologists spend much of their time studying sites. But people live across landscapes as a whole, reworking them over time, and the meeting brought home the importance of work, on land and at sea, that keeps those broader horizons in mind.

With presentations on airborne laser survey and underwater bathymetry, on field-walking, oral history and community involvement, the meeting tackled many issues of analysis and interpretation. The organisers said they were delighted with the papers and with the in-depth conversations that carried people around West Mainland and Rousay. Speaking at the close of the event, Mark Edmonds added that, “This was a great opportunity to talk about how best to investigate and understand the landscape around us and we all learnt a great deal over the four days. We were also very pleased that our grant from the Royal Society of Edinburgh allowed us to invite several students from the UHI and from other Scottish universities.”

Window onto the Early Bronze Age in Orkney.

Professor Colin Richards of the University of Manchester writes about developments at the recently discovered Bronze Age settlement in Orkney

Late February running into early March is never the best of times to undertake archaeological fieldwork in Orkney, but this was when we had planned the further investigations of the stone spreads including stone tools and structural remains along the large stretch of Cata Sands, Tresness, on Sanday.

Our goal was mainly to see whether this material, first located last December actually represented the remains of houses (as we had assumed), or merely working or tool production areas. Together with the Sanday Archaeological group, Professor Jane Downes (University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute), Vicki Cummings (UCLan), Christopher Gee (University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute) and myself (later Tom Dawson and Jo Hambly from SCAPE, and Beccy Jones and Lisa Brown from Historic Environment Scotland) ventured out onto Cata Sands to give the spreads of tools closer inspection and to undertake geophysical survey (looking for midden material).

In typical weather conditions, ranging from snow showers to warm sunshine, many of the discrete spreads of stone tools were found to be all that remained. Nonetheless, among the stones we examined were some beautifully shaped ard points for breaking up the soil and more nebulous long ‘flaked bar’ tools. Either these were just working or production areas or else any houses that once stood there had been completely eroded by the sea and winds and this was all that was left.

Geophysics Cata Sands Structure
Geophysics showing 15m diameter structure.

Now, it may be wondered why the presence of small flints and stones caused us so much pleasure. Well there are several reasons, first, this period (Early Bronze Age) is a bit of a prehistoric mystery in that it marks the time when the majority of the late Neolithic villages such as Skara Brae, Ness of Brodgar – and Pool on Sanday – were abandoned. Why such a dramatic shift in settlement should occur is difficult to interpret although we do see signs of the weather deteriorating at this time, for instance, a layer of wind-blown sand turns up as far inland as the Ring of Brodgar ditch at around 2200 BC. Second, traces of the new areas of settlement have been fairly difficult to find, we know some sites such as Crossiecrown, Mainland and Toftsness, Sanday, continue to be occupied but such sites are rare. Third, for good or bad, contact with Shetland appears more visible through the material remains that we find during this period. It could be said that Early Bronze Age Orcadians turn their heads from mainland Britain and Ireland and look to the north – towards Shetland. As the links between Orkney and Shetland appear to become more formal and time passes, a greater emphasis on land and its control ensues. It is also at this time that stone dykes are erected and infield/outfield agriculture practiced.

In fact, the Cata Sands discovery could not have been timelier because now that the long running Cuween-Wideford landscape project looking at Neolithic settlement on Mainland has finished, a new project – Northern exposure: the end of the Neolithic in Orkney – is just beginning and the new site fits exactly into the time period being examined. Indeed, it could be that many answers concerning what happens at the end of the third millennium BC will come from islands such as Sanday, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that northern isles communities maintained relationships with Shetlanders earlier in the Neolithic than has been previously realised.

We hope to go over to Sanday again quite soon and continue work at the Cata Sands settlement, in collaboration with the Sanday Archaeological Group, and the SCAPE group from University of St Andrews. The landowners Colin and Heather Headworth have been very generous and welcoming, all we need now for further investigations is a period of calm weather and sunshine, as it was an interesting experience seeing the area that had taken days to uncover and clean be completely filled with sand within half an hour or so of a strong northerly wind blowing up!

All photographs courtesy of Colin and Heather Headworth.

New Maritime Archaeology Course

MAC ROV small ad

The University of the Highlands and Islands and Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) are offering a two day Nautical Archaeology Society course in the use of Remotely Operated Vehicles in maritime archaeology. The course is structured to contribute to a persons own career / professional development and at the same time contribute to the monitoring of wartime remains in Scapa Flow.

  • NAS MAC ROV surveying
  • 2 day course
  • 14th and 15th May 2016
  • Location: Kirkwall and Stromness, Orkney
  • Cost £249

For more infromation :

  • Phone: 01856 569223
  • email: studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

 

 

Finding The Utrecht

A marine archaeology project led by Kevin Heath of Sula Diving and funded by Orkney Island Council. Research completed by Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA).

Even now the weather in Orkney can cause difficulties for modern ships. With all our sophisticated navigation equipment and ships, vast seas and gale force winds can combine to close down the islands to all communications. Just imagine trying to sail around our beautiful, but treacherous islands while at war – in a small wooden ship – without local knowledge and without weather forecasts. Then imagine heading into mountainous seas with just your skill as a seaman to keep you from smashing against the rocks. That was the reality facing the warship Utrecht in the winter of 1807.

Built in Rotterdam, the Utrecht was part of the Dutch Navy. On 15th February 1807 the 38 gun warship was on it`s first voyage and was one of three frigates that were sailing to Curacao to reinforce the Dutch garrison stationed there against the British. The vessel was driven off course in a blizzard and was stranded off the North coast of Sanday with a recorded loss of 50 – 100 men. The remaining crew and soldiers came ashore and were stripped of their valuables by the islanders. A detachment of soldiers proceeded to Sanday where they found the survivors “in great distress… objects of pity rather than fear… [who]… had delivered themselves to the authorities in Orkney”. The survivors were brought to Kirkwall where they were briefly imprisoned at a makeshift prisoner of war camp at Gaitnip. They were subsequently taken to Leith where some of them joined the Royal Navy. The remaining survivors were returned home to Holland.

The project aims to build on previous work that located and conducted a preliminary assessment of the remains of the Dutch Frigate Utrecht, which was stranded off the Holmes of Ire, Sanday in 1807.

The remains of the Utrecht represent a unique resource in Orkney waters. The Utrecht is the only vessel of its type known to have sunk in Orkney waters – the closest equivalent being the remains of The Svecia off North Ronaldsay.

The second phase of this project recorded and planned the extent of the site and its artefacts. This would provide an invaluable baseline by which to monitor the wreck site, deterring high risk activities such as the site being plundered before protection measures are instigated. Recording the remains of the vessel through completion of this project contributes to local and national heritage management strategies e.g. Historic Scotland’s Strategy for the protection, management and promotion of marine heritage 2012 – 15, and the Scottish Historic Environment Policy. This project also carried out side scan and magnetometer surveys in order to define the extent of the wreck site. The archaeological dive team carried out site analysis; producing an archaeological record, wreck site and artefact distribution plan.

An illustrated report will be produced and lodged with the relevant local and national bodies. The initial display at the Sanday Heritage Centre will also be added to, using data from the project to highlight the story of The Utrecht.

A 3D model using photogrammetric software will be created of the wreck site elements; this will raise the profile of the wrecksite and will provide an interactive tool to encourage diver tourism in the Outer Islands.

Although the story of the shipwreck has been recorded in local archive sources and regional shipwreck anthologies, the location of the remains and associated artefacts were unknown until discovery during the initial phase of this project. There are several conflicting reports about the size of the vessel, the numbers of crew and passengers and the number of people who lost their lives as a result of this stranding – conflicts that will only be resolved by more detailed desk-based assessment and further investigation of the wreck site.

Click through to video of the cannon discovered in situ.

Thanks to :

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Map Orkney Month: New Paper Published

Map Orkney Month: Imagining archaeological mappings has just been published in a new open access online journal Livingmaps Review (Vol. 1, No. 1).

The paper is based on Dan Lee’s (Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist)  contribution to the wider Public Archaeology 2015 project, in which 6 archaeologists and 6 non-archaeologists each had a month long project throughout the year.

Map drawn by volunteer
Participant mapping of Stromness

Map Orkney Month proposed new forms of creative mapping for archaeology. When volunteers were asked to map their world for a day, the idea was to create a new collaborative map of the Orkney archipelago based on everyday journeys and places; a kind of countywide archaeological walkover survey with a twist. In the process, the project challenged traditional archaeological power structures, destabilised the way archaeological knowledge is produced by using non-specialists, and experimented with new modes of archaeological mapping. In the end, each contribution became its own map without the need for traditional archaeological cartography. In particular, the role of imagination in both traditional and experimental mappings became an important theme. Above all, mappers were challenged to think about archaeology in a new way, and in the process contributed something new to the discipline.

After a month of collaborative mapping a new map of Orkney has been created. By thinking big, Map Orkney Month seems to have captured people’s imagination. Our map looks like Orkney, however it is far removed from the Ordnance Survey and the tourist trail of Neolithic World Heritage Sites, brochs and bird watching. Our map is an unfamiliar Orkney, revealed through the experience and creativity of its inhabitants.

The emphasis was on everyday journeys, less familiar places, and recording individual stories and memories of place. The only loose instructions were to record journeys for a single day within March using a handheld GPS or smart phone, and record one site of significance.

You can access the article free here (just register): https://www.livingmaps.review/journal/index.php/LMR/index

A new research paper: “Imagining Archaeological Mapping” has just been published by Dan Lee (Lifelong Learning and…

Posted by Archaeology Institute UHI on Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Rocks that Don`t Belong.

The Rocks that Don’t Belong: Macro Petrologic* Analysis of Rock Recovered from the Ness of Brodgar Excavation

Martha Johnson writes about her research into non structural and non tool rocks found at The Ness of Brodgar.

All stone is rock but most rock is not stone. In the index or glossary of most geology texts there is no listing for stone, conversely, in most archaeology texts, there is no listing for rock.

This research has been structured to include rock in an archaeological setting. As a naturally occurring material composed of crystals or grains of one or more minerals, rock is not recognized in most archaeological sites until it has been quarried and placed upright in the ground; or it has been dressed for use in a foundation or wall; or it has been struck to form a sharp edge or ground into a tool. Until a rock is a stone something; standing stone, stone wall, flaked stone axe, or ground stone mace, it is not usually recognized as a material in its own right with information to provide. On many Neolithic sites there is incidental or non-structural, non-tool rock situated at occupation levels but this material is usually not recovered and recorded as either general or small finds.

The Rocks That Don’t Belong research project is investigating the non-structural, non-tool rocks recovered from the Late Neolithic site, the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney. These rocks, termed Foreign Stone for this research, are more often found on the spoils pile than in a finds tray. It should be noted the word “foreign” used in the archaeological finds classification, “Foreign Stone,” denotes rock originating from outside the area of excavation, not from another country. The recovery, recording and identification of these rocks as discrete rock (and mineral) species will add a petrological and geological dimension to post-excavation interpretation not commonly included in most archaeological settings.

During the 2013, 2014 and 2015 excavation seasons at the Ness of Brodgar, over 2000 Foreign Stone finds were recovered.  Each specimen has had the trench, structure and context recorded, their visible physical properties identified and recorded (colour, composition, texture/grain size, morphology…), and has had their specific rock (or mineral) species identified. Each specimen has also been examined for any evidence of heating.

The recording both archaeological and petrological data in this research will permit the cross referencing of rock species to structure or context. Though all rock recovered as Foreign Stone has been recorded and identified, the Foreign Stone of particular interest to this research involves those species not outcropping of the portion of the Stenness-Brodgar isthmus occupied by the Ness of Brodgar site. The recovery of these rocks at or near occupation levels, give indication of transport to the site during its period of use. Broad questions can then be asked concerning the presence of these rock species at the site.

The second portion of this research involved the compilation of all current and archival references regarding the location and description of any rock (or mineral) species found in Orkney. This species/location gazetteer permits an overall assessment of the rock types and species available within the Orcadian archipelago to people of the Neolithic. Questions can then be asked with respect to the distance(s) specific rock (or mineral) species recovered from the Ness of Brodgar could have been transported from its outcrop source(s) to the site.

Combining the knowledge of what rock species are found in Orkney and where they can be found with what rock species have been recovered from the Ness of Brodgar and where within the site they have been recovered generates the remaining post-excavation questions.   Specific questions will be posed to determine if there is any concentration of a specific rock species within a structure or within a context.


*Definition of petrology:  a science that deals with the origin, history, occurrence, structure, chemical composition, and classification of rocks