Ness of Brodgar site director Nick Card was invited by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to give a lecture in Xi’an this month – the birthplace of Chinese Civilisation and home to the Terracotta Army.
The trip not only gave Nick the opportunity to take part in an international workshop on heritage management and present the Ness of Brodgar as a case study of how archaeology can contribute to local economies, but also explore the amazing archaeology in and around Xi’an, including the famous Terracotta Army associated with the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang – China’s first emperor.
Talking about the sheer scale of the archaeology present in the landscape in and around the city, Nick pointed to the huge population mobilisation (reputedly 700,000 for the construction of the mausoleum alone) and highly sophisticated social organisation over 2,000 years ago.
He said: “The archaeology is breathtaking, not only in its scale – the Daming Palace in Xi’an itself covers an area equivalent to 300 football pitches – but in the artefacts and monuments that are being uncovered.
“The local archaeologists have only uncovered a tiny percentage of the mausoleum site that overall covers several square kilometres and yet the insight into this incredible civilisation provided by the discoveries so far are nothing short of astonishing.”
Following Nick’s presentation on the Ness of Brodgar, the workshop progressed onto discussions on heritage management and the innovative methods being used in China to preserve and present the past.
One line of discussion centred on the Chinese creation of huge archaeology parks such as the one in Xi’an.
The few days Nick spent in the city also gave him the opportunity to sample the local cuisine, which gave him chance to think on LP Hartley’s opening line in the 1953 novel The Go- Between: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”
The trip was fully funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences – a huge thanks to them for this opportunity.
The Ness of Brodgar is a University of the Highlands Archaeology Institute research excavation and is part financed by the Scottish Government and the Leader 2014-2020 Programme.