‘The Ness of Brodgar: As it Stands’ – November launch for third volume of UHI Archaeology Institute’s research series

Ness of Brodgar: As it Stands Cover

A November release date has been set for the third volume of the UHI Archaeology Institute’s research series.

The Ness of Brodgar: As it Stands focuses on the ongoing excavation at the Neolithic site in Stenness, Orkney, and will be launched on Wednesday, November 18.

UHI excavation at the Ness of Brodgar began in 2006 and the interim monograph presents over a decade’s worth of information on all aspects of the monumental Neolithic complex, providing a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the project’s findings.

The book features contributions from institute staff as well as specialists from around the world. The result is 27 chapters, each devoted to different aspects of the site, its excavation and interpretation.

Structure Eight. Ness of Brodgar. (Scott Pike)
Looking along the length of Structure Eight at the Ness of Brodgar. (Picture: Scott Pike)

The Ness of Brodgar: As it Stands, edited by Nick Card, Mark Edmonds and Anne Mitchell, is published by The Orcadian and will be available to the public from November 18, priced £35.99.

The second volume in the UHI Archaeology Institute series, Landscapes Revealed: Remote Sensing Across the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, was launched last week.

Online seminar: The lost township of Broo – climate change or human agency in a coastal sand disaster?

Excavations of 17th century buildings at Broo Site II, Dunrossness, Shetland. (Picture: Gerry Bigelow)

Later this month, the next University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Research seminar considers geocatastrophe, using a lost Shetland township as an example.

About three hundred years ago, Broo was overwhelmed by windblown sand. The environmental catastrophe was probably not the first time that sand from the nearby Quendale Beach had caused problems, but this time the sand blew far inland and the community did not recover.

Through the history of Broo, the online seminar looks as the causes, processes and consequences of geocatastrophe.

The Shetland Islands Climate and Settlement Project (SICSP) has been investigating the causes, processes and consequences of the Broo geocatastrophe for over a decade. The coasts of Scotland and other parts of Europe offer many examples of archaeological sites and later monuments that have experienced comparable episodes of sand movements. Climate change has been proposed as a cause of these, sometimes catastrophic events, but other factors may also have played key roles.

The seminar, at 4pm on Friday, October 30, will be led by Dr Gerry Bigelow, emeritus associate professor of history, Bates College, Maine, and Visiting Reader with the UHI Archaeology Institute.

Dr Bigelow will discuss findings from the Broo research that contribute to understanding this environmental and historical phenomenon. In addition, the presentation will outline some of the challenges and opportunities that are involved in archaeologies of extreme events and buried landscapes.

For details on how to view the free seminar, click here.

Climate change and heritage – online talk by Archaeology Institute director

The moai statues of Easter Island. Under threat from climate change. (Picture: Jane Downes)

University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Professor Jane Downes will present her research on climate change and heritage to an international audience next week.

Professor Jane Downes.

In an online talk on Tuesday, October 6, Professor Downes will, together with Dr Will Megarry of Queens University Belfast, detail the research behind the Google Arts and Culture Heritage on the Edge resource, which highlights dramatically the impacts of climate change on the statues of Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

The free ICOMOS-UK talk, available via the Zoom app or a web browser, begins at 7pm. To register, click here.

Landscapes Revealed – second volume of UHI Archaeology Institute research series out now

A substantial Neolithic settlement at the north-western end of the Ness of Brodgar is one of hundreds of new archaeological sites outlined in a new book from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute.

Landscapes Revealed: Remote Sensing Across the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, the second volume in the institute’s research series, documents a nine-year project that surveyed a 285-hectare area between Skara Brae and Maeshowe.

The project, which ran from 2002 until 2011, revealed a wealth of new sites, as well as helped chart the changing character of the landscape and shed new light on the known monuments and their place in the historic and more recent past.

The Neolithic site mentioned above lies to the north-west of, and is on a par with, the Ness of Brodgar excavation site. Based on the surveys and the finds collected in the field, it seems we may have something of the same magnitude as the Ness and incorporating similarly large structures. But of particular interest is the fact that this settlement is merely one facet of a landscape incredibly rich in archaeology — containing evidence of life from the Neolithic all the way through to long-gone 19th century farmsteads.

Gradiometer data interpretation of an area north of Buckan Farm, Sandwick, at the north-western end of the Ness of Brodgar. (ORCA)

Staying on the Ness, north-west of the Ring of Brodgar are Bronze Age houses that are providing important insights into this enigmatic period of Orcadian prehistory. The structures lay close to – but a respectable distance from – the stone circle, where the householders placed the remains of their dead in a manner similar to that encountered at Stonehenge.

Bronze Age dwellings were also discovered inland from Skara Brae, showing that people did not abandon the area but adapted their way of life in the face of climate change, increasing storminess and encroaching sand.

Moving into the Iron Age, the surveys revealed in startling detail the brochs that loomed over the ruins of Skara Brae and the Stones of Stenness. With the latter, the broch-dwellers continued to act out rituals at what was already an ancient stone circle. Clearly the Neolithic monuments continued to inspire.

To find out more, pick up a copy of the book.

Landscapes Revealed: Remote Sensing Across the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, by Amanda Brend, Nick Card, Jane Downes, Mark Edmonds and James Moore.  Published by Oxbow Books, the hardback is available now, priced £35.

UHI Archaeology Institute research highlighted at Highland Archaeology Festival

Dr Scott Timpany, a lecturer at the University of the Highlands and Island Archaeology Institute, will present a talk next week as part of the ongoing Highland Archaeology Festival.

Scott’s presentation, Recent Palaeoarchaeology Work in the Highlands, focuses on the use of plant remains to answer research questions and explain vegetation changes over time.

The talk will be streamed online, using Microsoft Teams, on Tuesday, October 6, at 7.30pm. Although free to access, pre-booking is required at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/recent-palaeoarchaeology-work-in-the-highlands-tickets-120048513335

On Thursday, October 8, from 7.30pm, three UHI postgraduate students will take the stage to outline their ongoing research.

In “The archaeology of whisky smuggling: searching for things that weren’t meant to be found!”, PhD student Darroch Bratt will discuss the archaeology of whisky smuggling as well as the way trade, legislation, economics and community impacted and changed the archaeological footprint of what became a pillar of the Scottish economy.

PhD student Jasmijn Sybenga’s talk, “Seeing the woods for the trees: a palaeoecological investigation of native woodlands to inform present and future woodland conservation management strategies in Northern Scotland”, outlines her research into three areas of peatland in Caithness and Sutherland.

Pollen grains viewed through the microscope (x400) – tree pollen of alder and hazel can be seen in this photo. (Picture: Dr Scott Timpany)

Using pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs and microscopic charcoal, Jasmijn is seeking to identify the types of woodland previously present against today’s woodland survey of Scotland, causes for the demise of these woodlands and evidence of past woodland disturbances, such as those caused by people and climate.

The results of the work are modelled against predicted climate change to identify what native woodland and tree types offer the best chance for establishment through re-afforestation of these areas.

“Out of the Round: a palaeoecological investigation into human-environmental interactions of hut circle communities in Gairloch, Wester Ross”, from MRes student Hannah Genders Boyd, focuses on the Bronze and Iron Age communities who occupied the hut-circle (roundhouse) sites in the area around Gairloch.

One of the hut circles at Achtercairn, in Gairloch. (Picture: Dr Scott Timpany)

Palaeoecological analysis is being undertaken to investigate the interactions between local communities in this area and their environment – in particular evidence of economy, such as pastoral and arable farming and whether any shifts in these can be detected, together with evidence for metalworking from elevated charcoal and heavy metals input into the peat bog the core was taken from.

The project will look at how these communities adapted to changing climate and whether occupation of the area occurred in relatively short bursts of time or over a longer duration.

These talks should be booked at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/current-student-research-tickets-120049331783