Archaeology 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.”