Archaeology Kirkwall THI

Kirkwall Garden Dig 2016

Get Involved in the Kirkwall Garden Dig. 4th-8th August 2016 in Kirkwall Town Centre.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are teaming up with Scotland’s Urban Past to bring together an archaeological extravanganza to Kirkwall Town Centre.

  • 6 garden digs in Kirkwall Town Centre
  • Visit one of the digs in the BBC Radio Orkney Garden
  • Take part in community archaeology workshops in the town centre and learn excavation and building archaeology skills
  • Become an’Urban Detective’ and contribute to the nationwide archaeological record with the Scotlands’s Urban Past team
  • All welcome, free event, accompanied children also welcome to take part

The Kirkwall Garden Dig project is part of The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeology Programme ‘Discover Hidden Kirkwall’. This community archaeology initiative has already uncovered parts of the medieval shoreline of the town in a previous excavation held in May 2016.

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The Kirkwall Garden Dig 2016 will increase our knowledge of the rich heritage present in the town by helping local residents dig five test trenches in their garden and get hands on with history in data gathering workshops for local volunteers.

Local archaeology volunteers will be trained to investigate and record Kirkwall’s history as ‘Urban Detectives’ by Scotland’s Urban Past – a nationwide community engagement project from Historic Environment Scotland and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The sheme invites local people to contribute to Canmore, the national record of architecture, archaeology and industry and one one Scotland’s national collections.

Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, says, ” The Archaeology Institute are thrilled to be teaming up with the Scotland’s Urban Past team to bring an extravaganza of archaeology to Kirkwall. It’s great to offer training in both archaeological excavation and building survey and we hope that Kirkwall residents will get involved.”

Chiara Ronchini, Project Manager Scotland’s Urban Past, adds,”During the Kirkwall Garden Dig, we’ll be running free training sessions to members of the public to give them the skills to record the history on thier doorstep. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the built environment of Kirkwall through observation and interpretation of its buildings. We encourage volunteers to join our team and become Urban Detectives, investigating and recording Kirkwall’s unique heritage.

Participants will learn how to recognise and identify architectural features and to record them for posterity and submit their findings for inclusion in Canmore.

While most of the garden digs themselves will be on private land and inaccessible to the public, Kirkwall’s residents and visitors are invited to see an archaeology dig in action at the BBC Radio Orkney Garden. This excavation will be open to the public from 9.30am to 5.00pm on the 4th August to 8th August 2016. Drop-in training sessions for ‘Urban Detective’ volunteers will run from 10.00am to 12.00pm on Friday 5th, Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th August.

The research questions which the Garden Dig hopes to address include the following:

  1. What is the location, character and depth of the former shoreline and piers to the west of the town centre (between Broad Street and Junction Road)?
  2. Is there any evidence for the former occupation, land-use and activities within the historic core of Kirkwall?
  3. What is the nature, date and potential of any such archaeological evidence?
  4. What is the nature of the material used in the process of land reclamation along the shoreline in the Post-medieval Period?
  5. What is the character and history of the built heritage surrounding each test pit site?

To find out more or volunteer to become an ‘Urban Detective’ email or ring 01856 569225.

To find out more about Scotland’s Urban Past visit:


The Kirkwall Garden Dig is supported by: