Archaeology Kirkwall THI

Finding the Medieval Shoreline in Kirkwall

The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeological Programme. Discovering Hidden Kirkwall. Phase Two.

First Archaeological Excavation in Kirkwall Town Centre since 1978.

`Discovering Hidden Kirkwall’ is part of The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative (KTHI) Archaeological Programme. Phase One of the project involved volunteers receiving training in the use of geophysical survey techniques including Magnetometry, Earth Resistance and Ground Penetrating Radar in Tankerness House and the Royal Bank of Scotland Gardens in Kirkwall Town Centre. The results were then analysed by the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute team, to provide a targeted area for the phase two excavation.

The initial geophysiscs results show two linear features lying from 50cm to 1 metre beneath present ground level. Early analysis suggests they could represent walls, a spread of stones and a possible break of slope indicating the old medieval shoreline.

The second stage will commence on Monday 16th May and continue until Monday 23rd May and will give volunteers an opportunity to gain excavation, surveying and mapping skills. The main dig will involve excavating small trenches in the RBS gardens and will in effect be the first archaeological dig in the town since 1978. The project has been expanded to include pupils from Kirkwall Grammar school will also join the excavation team from The Archaeology Institute on the 17th and 18th May where they will be involved in the dig itself, sieving, mapping, further geophysics and historic building recording in the town centre.

Dan Lee (Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist) adds, “We are really excited about the geophysics results and with the help of the local community and pupils from Kirkwall Grammar School we hope to answer some of the questions concerning the make-up of the old shoreline infill.”

If you wish to join this archaeological investigation and receive training in basic archaeological techniques then please contact Dan Lee Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist on No experience is necessary and there is no charge! The (KTHI) programme is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland & Orkney Islands Council and runs until 2019.