Building on Success at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute

UHI Archaeology Institute Visiting Reader, Dr Gerry Bigelow. Photo: Val Turner

Renowned Visiting Researchers join the UHI Archaeology Institute, and the Archaeology Institute is established as a significant economic benefit to Orkney.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, based at Orkney College UHI, is pleased to announce that three new Visiting Professors – Professor Astrid Ogilvie (Senior Scientist, Stefansson Arctic Institute, University of Akuyeri/University of Colarado), Professor Leslie King (Professor in Environment and Sustainability, Royal Roads University, Vancouver Island), and Professor Mark Edmonds (Emeritus Professor in Archaeology, University of York) in addition to two new Visiting Readers – Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark (Curator of Prehistory, National Museums Scotland) and Dr Gerry Bigelow (Associate Professor in History, Bates College, Maine) have been appointed by UHI and join our existing Visiting Reader Olwyn Owen, an established Viking scholar whom many will remember from her excavations at Tuquoy on Westray.

With research specialisms including the archaeology of the North Atlantic, sustainability and the impact of climate change, past and present in Northern communities, Viking and Norse archaeology and Neolithic Europe, these appointments offer an unprecedented pool of expertise for our students and researchers as well as strengthening our connections and collaborations with universities and other institutions in Canada, the US, Iceland and Scotland.

UHI Archaeology Institute lecturer Martin Carruthers with students at the Stones of Stenness in 2019. Photo: UHI Archaeology Institute

Researchers at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have a fast-growing reputation for their studies of the impacts of climate change and sustainability: the excavation of the Viking hall and landscape at Skaill on Rousay, directed by Dr Ingrid Mainland, is part of the Orkney climate and environmental change research which has recently gained official recognition from UNESCO’s sustainable science initiative ‘BRIDGES’ :- world-wide recognition of the achievements of the team at the site and collaborators from Bradford University and in the wider North Atlantic. Additionally, Professor Jane Downes continues her research on climate change and heritage in the international Heritage on the Edge project which has now been launched by Google Arts and Culture .

In the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) at Orkney College UHI the strong and developing client base established by Pete Higgins, Senior Project Manager, has yielded excellent commercial archaeology work associated with infrastructure and energy developments over the past year and the unit has come in on budget. The unit faces challenges as the usual business environment adapts to the social distancing guidelines, and the team are looking forward to the time when they can once again return to the field.

Interesting results from a new independent study have shown that Orkney College UHI Archaeology Institute’s activities generate substantial expenditure in the Orkney economy: for the year 2019-20 the combined expenditure impacts associated with the 54 students studying Archaeology at Orkney College UHI, the Institute’s visiting academics, volunteers and students, and tourist visitors to the Ness of Brodgar to whom the site was critical in their decision to visit Orkney is over £2million, with 79 full time equivalent jobs being supported in this year (including the 25 full time equivalent staff of the Archaeology Institute). The study has found that ‘The Institute has played a substantial role in increasing the profile of both archaeology in Orkney and Orkney as a place for tourists to visit’.

UHI Archaeology Institute Dr Ingrid Mainland and PhD student Steve Worth at the Skaill Farmstead dig, Rousay in 2019. Photo: UHI Archaeology Institute

University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Director Professor Jane Downes said, “The Institute has also attracted substantial investment into Orkney through the winning of major academic research grants – the latest award of over £700,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. This together with the successful entrepreneurial activity of Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology has resulted in over 100 commercial projects worth hundreds of thousands of pounds of contracts being placed within Orkney. Furthermore the UHI’s leading archaeology and research excavation at the Ness of Brodgar is now firmly established as one of Orkney’s prime visitor attractions with over 18,000 people visiting during the short 7 week period the site is open to visitors each year.”

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute is looking forward to building on this success in the future and attract ever more direct and indirect investment to Orkney – harnessing the innovative, entrepreneurial and creative flair of the staff and students both in Orkney and across the world.