Two Field Trips in One Day

Martin Carruthers addresses the group of UHI students near the summit of King’s Seat Hillfort

University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology undergraduate and postgraduate students undertake their studies and research from locations across the whole of north Scotland through the use of video conferencing and a virtual learning environment. 

The blended learning approach adopted by UHI also gives students studying archaeology an opportunity to experience work in the field.

Last week, the staff of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute set off to conduct field trips across Scotland in order to give the widest possible number of students experience of outdoor learning.

Students making the descent to Midhowe broch and chambered cairn, Rousay

On Friday 30th November 2018, Dr Scott Timpany together with Martin Carruthers led a group to King’s Seat Fort, Dunkeld in the Highlands of Scotland where, during the summer, a group of UHI Archaeology students were involved in the ongoing excavations at the site. On the same day, and nearly 300 miles north, Professor Jane Downes led an excursion to the ‘Egypt of the North’ island of Rousay, Orkney. The weather was so windy that it was feared that the ferries may be cancelled, but the window of opportunity remained open for a few hours and the teams made it across to collect students from various locations across Scotland.

Students descending the steep hill side from King’s Seat Hillfort

With field booklet in hand, the students from Inverness, Perth, Moray and Argyll Colleges visiting King’s Seat Fort battled their way through the woods surrounding the hilltop site. The weather miraculously cleared to a cold, blue sky day, to allow Martin, Scott and the UHI students who were involved in the excavations at the hillfort to explain the site, the archaeology and the landscape.

Examining the well at the King’s Seat site

King’s Seat Hillfort has been the subject of archaeological investigations by Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust, Dunkeld and Birnam Historical Society, archaeologists from AOC Archaeology and UHI and, according to the Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust website, little was known about the site until King’s Seat Archaeology Project started their excavation. Their website continues….”Fragments of crucible, stone and clay moulds used for smelting and casting metal objects were identified suggesting that the site was important in the production of pretige metalwork and may even have been a centre of production in the early historic/Pictish period (c.600-900AD)” The full report can be accessed via the project website.

Approaching Rousay on the ferry.

As the team from the south were scaling the heights of King’s Seat Hillfort, the Orkney contingent approached the Island of Rousay as the clouds gathered ominously above the ferry.

Inside the Midhowe Chambered Cairn building – Professor Jane Downes explains the form and function of the tomb to the students

Driving along the deserted single track road that serves the island, the team soon arrived at the impressive Midhowe Chambered tomb which has been protected from the elements by a huge hangar like building. Once inside, the whole amazing prehistoric structure can be viewed from above from a series of walkways. Back outside in the gathering storm the intrepid group examined the Midhowe Broch which is located literally on the edge of Eynhallollow Sound. Here, Jane explained how such sites can be used as an indicator of how climate change affects coastally eroding archaeology sites and the research being carried out jointly with ICOMOS Climate Change & Heritage Working Group.

Midhowe Broch

The day was concluded with a visit to Taversöe Tuick , Blackhammer and Knowe of Yarso Chambered Cairns while 300 miles south,the students and staff concluded their day in Dunkeld at the local pub for well earned refreshments.

If you would like to explore the possibility of studying and contributing to the research undertaken at the UHI Archaeology Institute at undergraduate or postgraduate level then please either e-mail us at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk or see our website.

Thanks to Kevin Kerr for photographs of Rousay.

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