Team to Start Dig at Cata Sand

20160229_164816The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have teamed up with the University of Central Lancashire to begin excavation at the exciting site at Cata Sand on Sanday, Orkney.

The dig will commence on the 14th August and continue until the 8th September 2017 and will investigate the geophysical responses and midden deposits that were located  when the team visited previously. The details of the work can be viewed in blog posts here and here.

The excavation team includes Prof Colin Richards, Prof Jane Downes, Christopher Gee from the UHI Archaeology Institute and Dr Vicki Cummings from UClan in addition to participants from the Sanday Archaeology Group, University of Cambridge, and students from UHI and UCLan, but involves specialists from as far away as the School of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, Galicia, Spain.

The site will present challenges of its own for the archaeologists as the structural remains are literally located on a sandy beach and, although breathtakingly beautiful, is exposed to all that the North Atlantic can throw at it. Erosion by wind and tide are just two of the issues facing the team and everyone is hoping for good weather over the next few weeks.

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The site was discovered in November 2016 by Prof Jane Downes, Prof Colin Richards and Christopher Gee of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Dr Vicki Cummings of the University of Central Lancashire. A provisional survey showed a substantial settlement complex, which could be late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age (between c. 2500-2000 BC) – a period of massive social and possibly political change in society in Northern Scotland.

The project forms the first stage of a broader 5 year project (Northern Exposure) examining the end/collapse of the Neolithic and beginning of Bronze Age in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland and the plan involves examining sites on Orkney, Shetland and Fair Isle.

The overall project will also record the condition of an eroding stalled cairn on Tresness. This study forms part of The Tombs of the North Project.

We plan to track the developments over the next few weeks here on this blog.


Northern Exposure is a joint University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and University of Central Lancashire project.

2 thoughts on “Team to Start Dig at Cata Sand

  1. Patricia Vincent August 10, 2017 / 7:06 am

    Very exciting find. I look forward to following this dig!

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  2. Dorothy Wedderburn August 10, 2017 / 11:59 pm

    Very interested to be kept up to date with progress on this site.

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