Excavation Ness of Brodgar Skaill Farmstead

Excavations at Skaill farm and Ness of Brodgar resume today

UHI Archaeology Institute research excavations at the Ness of Brodgar, Stenness, Orkney and at Skaill farm, Rousay, resume today, Monday, July 4.
The Ness of Brodgar excavation site, Stenness, Orkney. (Hugo Anderson-Whymark)

UHI Archaeology Institute research excavations at the Ness of Brodgar, Stenness, Orkney and at Skaill farm, Rousay, resume today, Monday, July 4.

All three trenches at the Ness of Brodgar will be opened for the first time since 2019, with work to remove the protective covers beginning today. The site opens to the public on Wednesday, July 6, running until August 17 (9.30am until 4.30pm on weekdays).

Excavation under way at the Ness of Brodgar in 2019, with a tour group by the trench edge. (Jo Bourne)

The free site tours are also resuming this year, starting Wednesday and running at 11am, 1pm and 3pm on weekdays. Also returning is the open day, which is scheduled for Sunday, July 31.

Limited excavation took place in 2021, but a full cohort of excavators this year will see work resume in Trenches J, P and T. The focus will be on areas that have been dormant since the pandemic, particularly Structures One and Eight in Trench P and Trench T to the south-east.

Excavation director Nick Card said: “We are particularly excited about continuing work on Structure Twenty-seven with its unique architecture, incorporating massive prone slabs and orthostats lining its interior.

“As more of the floor levels are revealed we hope to unravel exactly what it was and how it fits into the overall narrative of the Ness.”

As always, a daily dig diary will be posted on the website for the duration of the excavation.

Skaill Excavation, Rousay
Excavation under way on site in 2021. (Sigurd Towrie)

Meanwhile, in Rousay, a UHI Archaeology Institute team are back at the multi-period settlement site at Skaill farm.

The site, which was in use from the Norse period until the 19th century, is also the home to a large Norse hall. This structure, revealed in 2019, probably dates to the 10th to 12th centuries AD, was discovered beneath the more recent buildings.

Skaill Farm Excavation Poster

The dig runs from July 4, until July 22, 2022, with visitors welcome on weekdays. An open day is scheduled for Saturday, July 16.

The 2022 season at Skaill will focus on the extensive post-medieval farmstead and will include preliminary test excavations at the neighbouring farmstead Brough, in order to fully maximise the links to the LIFTE and Sea Change projects, which are researching post-medieval trade and marine industries.

The remains of the earlier farmstead have been explored in several trenches and survive below the present farm buildings dating to the 18th / 19th century.

  • The post-medieval farm buildings in Trench 19, below and to to the east of the surviving farmhouse, will be further exposed and investigated. Results from last season suggest these could be 16th century in date.
  • Trench 22 will be further excavated to investigate the medieval and early post-medieval midden.
  • A series of test pits and small trenches will be used to target features such as middens and ancillary buildings around the post-medieval farm at Skaill and Brough.
  • Building recording will be undertaken at nearby Brough farm

For more details and excavation updates keep an eye on archaeologyorkney.com.

Excavating below late floors in Trench Nineteen, Room Two. (Dan Lee)
Excavating below late floors in Trench Nineteen, Room Two in 2021. (Dan Lee)