Island Archaeology on TV- What is the Attraction?

neil-oliver-chats-with-nick-about-developments-since-his-last-visitThe University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have been involved with several film productions this year including Digging For Britain on BBC4 and a major new documentary mini-series on BBC2 being screened in January…

So what is the attraction? There does seem to be a fashion for documentaries on island life including series on the Western Isles and Fair Isle recently being aired on TV, so there is a background to this sudden interest. Could it be the fact that these islands are at the forefront of research and development in many areas…..renewable technologies in Orkney, dare I say archaeology, ….and yet in other areas are still very traditional. Are they worlds in miniature? Or is the attraction of the remote and different way of life? It would be interesting to know what you think.

In any event and whatever the attraction, the BBC screened The Cairns excavation on 13th December 2016 when Martin Carruthers, Programme Leader for MSc Archaeological Practice, talked about the intriguing finds at this rich site. If you missed it then you can catch up using iPlayer. Just click the image below and it will take you through….available for the first 28 days in the UK.


The BBC were also filming at the Ness of Brodgar for six weeks during 2016 and we only have to wait a few more weeks to see the finished programme:

  • Episode 1: Monday 2nd January BBC2 at 9pm
  • Episode 2: Monday 9th January BBC2 at 9pm
  • Episode 3: Monday 16th January BBC2 at 9pm

The mini-series is entitled “Britain’s Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney” and features the exciting research at the Ness of Brodgar, explores archaeology across the islands, includes experimental archaeology investigating how the Orcadians could have moved huge blocks of stone, studies the intriguing geology of the area and reveals the DNA secrets of the Orkney vole.

The series is presented by Neil Oliver, Andy Torbet, Chris Packham and Dr Shini Somara.

The BBC website link is here.

If you are intrigued by the history and archaeology of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and want to learn more then either drop us a line through or go to our guide to courses on this blog or visit our University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute web page