ORCA Archaeology, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scotland’s Urban Past team have organised five Building Recording Days in historic Kirkwall and Stromness.
These are community archaeology events to which everyone is invited – experience is not required as full training will be given – but we ask that you book a place as below.
These days are designed to follow on from our training in March, and archive day in April, but feel free to come along if you missed these, we can easily get you up to speed. We’ve set up a regular survey afternoon, with the aim of conducting rapid recording and taking photos for properties in the Kirkwall conservation area.
The Scotland’s Urban Past team will run a workshop in Stromness on the 4th June, and will show us how to add the results of all our surveys onto the national record online.
The MLitt Archaeological Studies course at the University of the Highlands and Islands can be undertaken from anywhere in the world – as long as you have internet access and a computer.
The course offers you the opportunity to study the incredibly rich archaeology of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland from your own home and gain a postgraduate qualification from the UHI Archaeology Institute based in Orkney.
If you wish to study here in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The UHI is also pleased to offer a limited number of places with full tuition fees for Scottish/EU students studying full time on the course in September 2019.
To be eligible for this funding, students must meet the criteria for Scottish or EU fee status and be resident in the Highlands and Islands (including Moray) or Perth and Kinross for the duration of their studies. For details see our website.
There are a wide range of module options which draw on the research specialisms of the UHI Archaeology Institute staff and these provide you with the flexibility to combine taught modules and dissertation research according to your own research interests. You may have an interest in prehistory or in Celtic through to Viking/Norse through to Medieval archaeology. Or you may choose to combine period-based modules with our professional skills modules to gain a broader knowledge and understanding of the methods and theory practiced within archaeology.
The team from ORCA Archaeology & the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are holding a Historical Urban Archive Research Day at the Orkney Library Archive on Saturday 4th May 2019, 10am – 3pm.
Booking is essential as there are only limited places on this free training event. No experience is required…just an enthusiasm for the historic built environment!
This day is part of the Kirkwall Community Archaeological Building Recording project, which aims to undertake a rapid survey of the built heritage in Kirkwall. It is a follow on event from the Scotland’s Urban Past workshops, and provides a Kirkwall focus for research.
Led by Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon, the day of research in the Orkney Archives will focus on a case study area (e.g. a street, or group of houses) in the conservation area (Laverock, Midtown and The Bough). This supports the three detailed building recording exercises undertaken in 2016-17 and will allow participants to use a wide range of sources and learn how to link them.
This event is designed to be a training workshop for members of the public and no previous experience is required. The workshop will set the group up for rapid building recording and additional archive research in Kirkwall town centre during May and June.
The workshop is funded by the Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative.
The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Orkney College UHI are pleased to be hosting a major three day workshop this week where leading climate scientists and heritage professionals from across the globe are gathering to apply a new tool for measuring the climate change threat to World Heritage sites.
Claire Mullaney, Senior Communications Officer at Historic Environment Scotland continues….”Supported by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), in partnership with University of the Highlands and Islands, James Cook University (JCU, Australia), Orkney Islands Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the workshop in Stromness will pilot the new methodology which assesses the risks to all types of heritage sites impacted by climate change, known as the Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CVI).
The Heart of Neolithic Orkney will be the first cultural World Heritage site to undergo CVI assessment, following an initial trial of the tool over 8000 miles away at Shark Bay in Western Australia – a natural site which encompasses 2.2 million hectares of diverse landscapes, animals and plant life.
As part of the CVI workshop, delegates will visit the historic sites that comprise the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage site, including Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar. Several delegates will also speak at a public event at Orkney College UHI in Kirkwall on the evening of Thursday 25 April, which will offer the local community an opportunity to find out more about the project and the challenges of managing the World Heritage site in changing climate.
Following the workshop, a report will be produced and then presented during the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee which takes place in Baku, Azerbaijan this July, highlighting the results from Orkney and recommending that the CVI be adopted as a world standard for measuring the climate change risk to World Heritage sites.”
Ewan Hyslop, Head of Technical Research and Science at HES, said: “Climate change poses a number of very real threats to heritage sites, not only here in Scotland but throughout the world, and we’re very pleased to have been asked by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Climate Change and Heritage Working Group to pilot the CVI assessment tool in Orkney.
“At HES, we’ve already undertaken significant work to research the climate change risk our historic sites face, as outlined in our Climate Change Risk Assessment report which was published last year. This workshop offers an important opportunity to further enhance our knowledge and pool expertise by working collaboratively with our local, national and international partners to face this shared challenge, and take a positive step forward to help protect World Heritage sites across the globe.”
Dr Scott Heron, Senior Lecturer in Physics at JCU and one of the lead developers of the CVI assessment tool, said: “Climate change has been identified as the fastest growing threat to World Heritage properties, many of which are already being impacted. The purpose of this workshop is to assess the climate vulnerability of the Orkney World Heritage site, using a tool custom designed for application to all types of World Heritage properties – cultural and natural, marine and terrestrial.”
Adam Markham, Deputy Director for Climate and Energy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and a member of the ICOMOS working group, said “UCS has been at the forefront of identifying the growing threat to World Heritage sites from climate impacts including from sea level rise, extreme weather events, coastal erosion and worsening storm surge.
“From the Statue of Liberty in New York, to Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, iconic heritage sites the world-over are at risk”, said Markham. “We’re excited to be working with HES and the other partners to pioneer the development of this urgently needed rapid assessment tool to help prioritise and plan climate resilience actions at internationally important sites.”
“Our research shows that Orkney’s world class heritage is suffering greatly from the impacts of climate change,” says Professor Jane Downes, who leads the University of the Highlands and Islands Institute of Archaeology. “We welcome this work as a vital part of setting Orkney’s heritage in today’s global context, while planning for the long term.”
Find out more about how climate change affects the historic environment and what HES is doing to help limit the impact on our website.
About Historic Environment Scotland
Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. HES is also the lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of Historic Environment Scotland. Historic Environment Scotland is a registered Scottish Charity. Scottish Charity No. SC045925
You can keep up to date with news from Historic Environment Scotland and register for media release email alerts here. If you wish to unsubscribe, please contact us.You can follow Historic Environment Scotland on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and our blog.
Thanks to Claire Mullaney, Senior Communications Officer for the above article. Contact: 0131 668 8588
The team excavating the intriguing archaeology site at Cata Sand, Sanday, Orkney are appealing for donations to contribute to the costs of mobilising a team to complete rescue excavations at this rapidly eroding site.
The team also require funding to undertake assessment of the animal and plant remains, to submit samples for radiocarbon dating for both these important finds, the Neolithic houses and the whales.
The archaeological site at Cata Sand on Sanday, one of the northern isles of Orkney, was discovered by four archaeologists – Prof. Jane Downes, Prof. Colin Richards, Chris Gee of the University of the Highlands and Islands, and Prof. Vicki Cummings of the University of Central Lancashire as they trekked across the sands one December day of 2015 in a gale, walking out to nearby Neolithic tomb of Tres Ness which was known to be eroding at the cliff face.
The team had been spotting coarse stone tools along the sands, which lie in the lee of a huge sand dune, as they walked along. Close to a point in the huge dune where it was breached during a storm in 2012 sits a small tuft of dune – Grithies Dune – an eagle-eyed Chris spotted some orthostats (upright stones), and patches of reddened soil and walling were visible at the foot of this small dune. Settlement!! they thought, excited at the prospect of perhaps having discovered remnant of the elusive late Neolithic/early Bronze Age transition period……and which ultimately proved to be an early Neolithic house complex (c. 3,300-3,400 BC), and a deposit of dozens of 18th or 19th century AD pilot whales dumped into pits cut through the Neolithic house.
When we first discovered the archaeological remains, we saw they were in a vulnerable situation, exposed to winds and lying in the intertidal zone. Both the actions of wind and sea were causing visible erosion, and it became clear that the site had been exposed only fairly recently. Exposure occurred probably during the major storm in 2012, when wind and waves removed not only part of the large dune but removed over half of Grithies Dunes, revealing the remains of the Neolithic houses. We knew therefore that we had to move quickly, and so returned in 2016 (March, bitterly cold and snowing!) to work with the Sanday community getting a better idea of what the site was, and how extensive it was.
An Early Neolithic Settlement Revealed
Geophysical survey using magnetometer showed the archaeological deposits were focussed at the Grithies Dune; the coarse stone tools we had found strewn along the sands denoted perhaps where tools were being manufactured from the cobbles that make up the gravel banks under the sands. Our excavations over the next two seasons in 2017 and 2018 showed that we had found the remains of a series of early Neolithic houses, more than 5,000 years old, with fragments of stone walling and stone-built hearths showing the long rectangular form and layout typical of early Neolithic houses such as Knap of Howar on Papa Westray, and several other houses discovered more recently on Mainland Orkney, and Wyre.
This was a first for Sanday, as early Neolithic evidence at the multi-period site of Pool had been more ephemeral. Although the house remains are incredibly fragile and disappearing fast, floor deposits survive, and bones survives very well – this level of preservation offers a rare opportunity to be able to analyse plant and animal remains and find out how people sustained themselves in this dynamic environment. Two tiny and beautifully crafted shell beads were recovered from samples from the 2017 excavation: these give a rare glimpse into the exquisite craft skills that are lacking from other early Neolithic house sites.
At the same time, over 2017 and 2018 excavation seasons, our explorations at the Tres Ness tomb have revealed that this tomb, rather than being a late Neolithic passage grave like Swandro – and Maes Howe – is a stalled tomb of early Neolithic form. This finding is significant for, before the large sand dune had accumulated which is relatively recently, Tresness and the contemporary settlement at Cata Sand would have been inter-visible and therefore part of the same landscape, and very probably built by the same community. Excavations of the interior of the stalled tomb will be undertaken in 2019 (pending relevant permissions from Historic Environment Scotland), affording a rare opportunity to examine the contents of an early Neolithic tomb under modern excavation conditions before this too is claimed by the sea.
Whales! The team encountered a big surprise during the excavation of the Neolithic house when it became apparent that the scattered whale bones that we have seen on the beach surface came from two huge pits that had been dug through the corner of the Neolithic house and set at right angles to one another. Long lines of exposed rib and back bones could be seen helping us to identify that the bodies of many whales had been buried. We undertook the painstaking task of excavating fully one of the pits, and recording in 3D detail the location of all the bones; we felt that the whales deserved to be treated with respect and care. We recovered the bodies, but no heads, of more than 12 whales from this pit, and genetic analysis has since proven them to be the remains of pilot whales. This analysis was undertaken by the team led by Vicki Szabo ‘Assessing the Distribution and Variability of Marine Mammals through Archaeology, Ancient DNA, and History in the North Atlantic’ (funded by National Science Foundation, USA).
The whale remains are probably the result of the historical practice of ‘ca’ing’ the whales, that is driving them onto shallow sandy beaches for the purpose of obtaining blubber. At times too numbers of whales would beach themselves. However it is possible that these whales are the ones referred to in an account by John Sinclair in the 19th century (John Sinclair, Sketches of Old Times and Distant Places, 1875) who reports that more than eighty ‘bottle nose’ (pilot) whales were driven onto the sands, and comments on the offensive smell deriving from the carcasses, which may well then have been removed into pits. Further analysis of these remains could tell us about the diet of whales, and c14 dating would help identify whether they are from an historic ‘ca’ing’ rather than being of any earlier period.
Cata Sand Funding Appeal During 2017 and 2018 we excavated a much as we could of the early Neolithic houses; progress is slow due to the never ending blowing sand, and working between tidal inundations. Sea level rises and increased storminess (both relatable to climate change) mean the site will very soon have vanished completely. Our aim is to complete the excavation of the house floors and associated pits and hearths before they disappear completely.
We had planned to return to Cata Sand to recover the final parts of the Neolithic houses in summer 2019, but have not been able to secure funding to enable us to rescue the last deposits and carry out final recording. The completion of sampling of the floor deposits is necessary to give a full picture of how people lived inside the houses, and what resources they were utilising – plants, animals – and what artefacts they were making and employing.
We are appealing for donations to contribute to the costs of mobilising the team of archaeologists to go to Sanday this August and complete rescue excavations at Cata Sand. We also require funding to undertake assessment of the animal and plant remains, to submit samples for radiocarbon dating for both these important finds, the Neolithic houses and the whales.
Cata Sand and Tres Ness investigations are run jointly by University of the Highlands and Islands (Profs Jane Downes and Colin Richards) and University of Central Lancashire (Prof. Vicki Cummings), with National Museums of Scotland (Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark).
The next seminar in the University of the Highlands and Islands HARC ‘Ruination and Decay’ series is to be held on Thursday 25th April.
The seminar is entitled Time, Memory, Place: An Exploration Through Performance.
Art and Design and Drama colleagues based at Inverness College UHI are collaborating to explore ruination and decay in the context of place and its impact on memory and identity.
The project has been integrated with core curriculum and students are collaborating as co-researchers. During the seminar the team will describe their rationale and working processes. The speakers are Lesley Mickel, Alessandra Campoli, Stephanie Smart and Alison Woodside – Drama, Art and Design, Inverness College UHI.
WHEN: Thursday 25th April, 1 -2 pm
WHERE: G4.02 at Orkney College UHI – the Archaeology teaching room. Or dial in from where you are on email@example.com
ORCA Archaeology is pleased to announce that they have been awarded a grant of £202,000 by Historic Environment Scotland to complete an important archaeology research project centred on Newark Bay, Deerness, Orkney.
Newark is the site of an early medieval chapel and extensive cemetery and was the focus of rescue excavations by the late Professor Brothwell between 1968 and 1972. Due to various circumstances, the work never came to publication and part of this new ORCA Archaeology project will be to address this.
Like so many sites in Orkney, coastal erosion is a significant problem and has caused structural and human remains to have been lost over the years since Professor Brothwell’s original excavation.
Some 250 burials were recovered, making it one of the largest medieval cemeteries in Scotland. It was also the location of a post-medieval mansion house, partly revealed during excavation. Subsequent work at Newark includes recovery of a Class II Pictish Carved Stone, the second almost complete example of its type from Orkney.
ORCA staff examining the newly excavated Pictish Carved Stone. Note how close the beach is to the find site.Professor Brothwell’s archive is not publicly available, and with his excavation findings remaining unpublished, the potential for further analysis of the skeletal assemblage has yet to be fully exploited. This project therefore aims to address these issues and aims to:
Bring the site to publication;
Disseminate the archive
Complete comprehensive skeletal analysis of the human remains
Create an ancient DNA project
Include the wider community through the use of outreach workshops, social media and other digital platforms
Train volunteers in basic archaeological recording techniques
The project will be rolled out over three years starting in April 2019……..
Year One Publication: bringing together all work at the site from Professor Brothwell onwards, providing a current statement of knowledge and understanding, and setting out recommendations for future research.
Archive: bringing the Newark archive within the public domain via a digital repository. Includes cataloguing all skeletal material and digitising the archive.
Year Two Analysis of the skeletal remains, including full recording, C14 dating and isotopic analysis of a percentage of the assemblage. A full report will be published of findings.
Year Three Creation of a collaborative ancient DNA project. Creation of mobile exhibition about the site to be held at Orkney Museum and local community hall(s).
Pete Higgins, Senior Project Manager, ORCA Archaeology said, “We are very excited to have secured this funding for work at such an important site that is continually under attack from coastal erosion. We are looking forward to involving the community in the process through outreach training and workshops and, over the next three years, this project will provide vital information for the record which in turn will help us understand more fully the society that these people created in Orkney during the medieval period. The site includes finds from the Pictish through to the Viking period.”
The community are integral to the project. They have a long-term investment in the site at Newark and want to see previous work brought to publication and the archive disseminated. This project provides opportunities for their involvement throughout.
The fields of Orkney are now ploughed and so that means the new fieldwalking season is upon us.
The call for volunteers went out and a band of intrepid community archaeologists are led out into the spring Orkney sunshine to search for artefacts thrown up by the plough.
Chris Gee, of the ORCA Archaeology team organising the programme, takes up the story……”Even though we are still early in the fieldwalking of the World Heritage Area this season the results are already very interesting, providing new information on recorded sites, revealing unknown ones, and as usual raising more questions.
A field which was marked with three “Tumuli” on the OS map was walked. Although “tumuli” would indicate burial mounds of some sort often the labels were applied with little evidence of what the site actually was. In this case the tumuli were visible in the field as very low mounds with a slightly darker reddish-brown soil than the surrounding. On the surface at the centre of one of the mounds we found a chunk of cramp. Cramp is one of the products of cremation, often placed carefully within the stone cist along with the cremated remains or sometimes within the makeup of the burial mound.
On the mound alongside we found two flaked stone bars. These flattish flaked flagstone bars which were used in cultivating the land are often found within, and sometimes placed around the edge of Bronze Age barrows. Our flaked stone bars had smoothed areas which showed that they had been fairly extensively used before deposition. These stone tools were used to renew the land and bring it to life once more in an eternal cycle, maybe this is what was also expected of them in the context of human life and death. We walked a new field in an area that we have covered in previous years which is just over the loch from the Standing Standing Stone circles and Barnhouse. In this field we found extensive spreads of cramp which indicates that there was much funerary activity here in the Bronze Age. The funerary cremation fires here would have been clearly visible for miles around and particularly from the large monuments over the Harray Loch.
Further to the two hitherto unknown Neolithic settlement sites that we found last year another one has turned up this year. In fact on the first traverse of the first field to be walked one of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute students picked up the butt end of a ground stone axe or chisel. It was obvious that there was something in the field as soon as we looked at it as there was a slight rise that looked a bit darker in colour (due to occupation ash and midden enhancing the soil). Fragments of burnt stone, flint chips and small scrapers, along with larger stone tools were recorded from the surface. Just as we were about to leave the field I picked up a fine flint chisel arrowhead and several pieces of grooved ware which had also been ploughed up.
Taken together these finds and their distribution suggest a Neolithic settlement site with at least a Late Neolithic element to it. Judging by the extent of the spread it probably consisted of a few houses, perhaps something like Crossiecrown, just outside Kirkwall.
The site is just across the loch from the Barnhouse-Brodgar monuments and not far away from Maeshowe. They would have been clearly visible from each other. The questions we are now asking are how the people in this smaller settlement interacted with the cluster of large monuments and settlement in the area and over the loch (it may have been very wet marsh at that time) and vice versa. How much interaction was there and what form did it take?
I suspect the clear inter-visibility and proximity in this case was not accidental and that it had meaning to people in both locations. Although given the density of prehistoric settlement within and well away from the World Heritage area it may be reckless to read too much into the location of one settlement. What we can now say though is that as well as the large prehistoric settlements like Barnhouse-Ness and Bookan there are apparently several smaller Neolithic settlements consisting of maybe a couple of houses in each case in very close proximity to the large monuments.
The great thing about field walking is that it is very easy to do (particularly on a bonny day!) and the results are almost instant, allowing us to discuss the landscape and what our latest finds are telling us immediately with the community archaeologists.
I am particularly grateful to all the interest shown to this project, and actually archaeology in general in Orkney, by all the landowners that I have met. I have had many interesting chats and learned so much as a result of meeting the people that know and have a first hand interest in their land.
Thanks also to Orkney Archaeology Society, Historic Environment Scotland and others who have sponsored this project.
The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have once again teamed up with Orkney College UHI Art Department to offer the popular summer Art & Archaeology workshop for 2019.
Dates: 2nd – 5th July 2019
Time: 9.00-5.00 each day
Cost £250 per person (limited number of concessions at £225)
Accommodation and food is not included
Material and transport to and from Kirkwall during the workshop is included
Join us for a four-day workshop exploring the synergies between Art & Archaeology through an exciting combination of field visits and studio time. Accompanied by artists and archaeologists, you will explore the themes of mark-making, materiality and the landscape in the beautiful setting of Orkney’s West Mainland and the island of Hoy.
There will be exclusive tours of the Ness of Brodgar, Pier Arts Centre and the Ness Battery as well as expert printmaking tuition in Orkney College’s Art Studio from Charles Shearer
Tuesday 2nd July 2019 Field Day Ness of Brodgar and Ness Battery
After an introduction to the workshop, we will visit the excavations at the Ness of Brodgar. You will have the opportunity to enjoy a bespoke tour with Site Director Nick Card and see its unique art with Neolithic art researcher Dr Antonia Thomas. In the afternoon we will have a tour of the remarkable buildings at the Ness Battery and its unique WW2 painted murals with archaeologist Andrew Hollinrake.
Wednesday 3rd July 2019 Pier Arts Centre and Hoy
For today’s session, we will study the internationally significant collection of modern and contemporary art through an exclusive tour of the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness. We will then travel by the MV Graemsay ferry to the island of Hoy and then onwards to the beautiful beach at Rackwick via the Dwarfie Stane….a Neolithic rock cut tomb made famous by Sir Walter Scott in The Pirate. Following a day on the islandwe then travel back to Stromness on the ferry.
Thursday 4th July Studio Day One
You will develop your sketches and ideas from the previous two days into collagraph prints, guided by the internationally renowned printmaker and artist Charles Shearer. A lunchtime lecture will discuss art and artefacts from Neolithic sites in Orkney. You will also have an opportunity to handle finds from recent excavations.
Friday 5th July Studio Day Two
You will be able to develop your ideas from the previous three days further, and continue to work on collagraph printmaking with Charles Shearer. A lunchtime lecture will explore overlaps between archaeology and art as disciplines and processes.
Formal qualifications are not required for this course.
Cost: £250 for 4 days. Limited number of concessions available at 10% discount (£225) Cost includes teaching, transport and materials, but not accommodation or food.To book, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01856 569000
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.
Nick, when showing me the photographs from his trip, talked about the sheer scale of the archaeology present in the landscape in and around the city; pointing to huge population mobilisation (reputedly 700,000 for the construction of the mausoleum alone) and highly sophisticated social organisation over 2,000 years ago.
He continued,” The archaeology is breath-taking, not only in its scale…for example 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 Nicks 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.