Mapping Magnus dates for the diary 1

Upcoming activities in the Palace village area of Birsay for August and September 2017.

Be a part of this exciting archaeology project commemorating the Magnus 900 year! More activities will be announced soon. Places for local residents and volunteers from Orkney available now.

Book your place now (limited places available):

Phone 01856 569225

Boat noust survey. 15 & 16 August

What? Record and survey the historic boat Nousts / Boat houses at Skipi Geo and Point of Buckquoy. Learn survey techniques with Dan Lee.

Where? Meet at Skipi Geo, Northside, Birsay (15th), Point of Buckquoy car park (16th).

When? 10am – 3pm. Booking essential.

Village survey. 25 & 26 August

What? Record and survey the upstanding archaeology in and around Palace Village, Birsay. Learn survey techniques with Dan Lee.

Where? Meet at Palace village car park opposite kirk.

When? 10am – 3pm. Booking essential.

Archive research training. 1 & 2 Sept

What? Research the history & archaeology of Birsay with Dr Sarah-Jane Gibbon in the Orkney Library and Archive. Contribute original research to the project.

Where? Meet at Orkney Archives Room (upstairs), Kirkwall Library

When? 10am – 3pm. Booking essential.

Coastal Survey. 6, 7 & 8 Sept

What? Record the coastally eroding sites from Palace village to the point of Buckquoy area with archaeologist Dave Reay.

Where? Meet at Point of Buckquoy

When? 10am – 3pm. Booking essential.

Village excavations. 25 Sept – 6 Oct (2 weeks)

What? Help the Archaeology Institute team dig test pits in Palace Village around the medieval site of the Bishops Palace. Join in for a day or whatever you can manage.

Where? Meet at Palace village car park opposite kirk. Booking essential.

When? 10am – 4pm each day

Please note: Booking is essential for all activities.

Mapping Magnus Geophysics to Commence

Mapping Magnus Gen poster V1 070717

The first phase of the exciting community archaeology and training project, Mapping Magnus, begins on the 25th and 26th July.

Volunteer archaeologists together with a team from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute will be involved in the initial geophysics survey in and around the gardens of Palace Village, Birsay.

Geophysical survey will be used as a prospective tool to investigate key areas within Palace village, providing targets for subsequent excavations, and opportunities for community training and engagement. 3-4 areas will be investigated using magnetometry and earth resistance survey:

  • Magnetometry / Gradiometry measures localized variations in the earth’s magnetic field caused by features in the top metre or so of the ground. The technique is especially suited to locating ditches, pits, pottery and tile kilns, hearths and ovens, ferrous debris, and burnt material.
  • Resistance survey effectively measures the moisture content in the top 0.75m or so of the earth’s surface. It is particularly suited to locating walls and rubble spreads, made surfaces such as yards, and stone coffins or cists. The technique can also be used to locate ditches and pits in areas where gradiometry is not suitable, for example due to the nature of the soils or the presence of large amounts of ferrous material on or beneath the surface.


Further opportunities for community involvement and training in archaeological archive research and desk based assessment is also planned for the first phase of this project. School pupils will also be involved in discovering the exciting history of Birsay when the schools return after their summer holidays.

If you want to get involved contact  Dan Lee at



Exciting New Mapping Magnus Project Launched

image4144The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are pleased to announce the launch of a major new community archaeology research and training project in Orkney.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute has been commissioned by Orkney Islands Council to deliver a programme of community archaeology activities and events that will explore the story of St Magnus and medieval Orkney.

The Mapping Magnus project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of Magnus 900, commemorating the 900th anniversary year of the death of St Magnus during 2017.

Based around the central themes of the Mapping Magnus project – Movement & Pilgrimage, Religion & Power, Stones & Bones – activities will include archive research, storytelling and collecting, geophysical survey, walkover survey, excavation, coastal survey, a noust survey and community and schools workshops. Fieldwork activities will be focussed in Palace village and the surrounding area of Birsay. Other key places within the story, such as the site of Magnus’ Martyrdom on Egilsay and the Mansie Stane sites where his body was rested during transit will be included. All activities will involve training and hands-on experiences for the local community and schools, and local volunteers are encouraged to get involved.

Dates for the diary: Excavations in Palace village: 25 Sept – 6th October 2017


There will be an emphasis upon hands-on archaeological research, fieldwork and experiences providing members of the community with an opportunity to explore the Magnus Story in exciting new ways. The project events include archive research and training with Dr Sarah-Jane Gibbon, an exploration of the journey of St Magnus through a walkover survey at the martyr site on Egilsay, a survey of the route taken to Birsay and sharing of oral histories through music and storytelling workshops.

Archaeological fieldwork will be concentrated in Birsay, with an emphasis on Palace village and the sites of the medieval Christ’s Kirk and the Bishops Palace – key places in the story of Magnus. The project aims to characterise the medieval settlement at Palace and contribute something new to our understanding of life at the time of Magnus. Activities will complement and draw together previous archaeological work in Birsay Bay. Key sites and finds from the project will be brought to life using the latest 3D modelling. The project will work with local schools to provide hands-on learning experiences in the class and field.

The Mapping Magnus project will contribute to other Magnus related projects during 2017 including the St Magnus Way Pilgrimage route and wider Magnus 900 activities.

Antony Mottershead, Orkney Island’s Council Arts Officer, said, “We are very happy to be working with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute through the Mapping Magnus project. The knowledge and expertise within their team will enable them to quickly focus in on areas of interest and, we hope, add significantly to our understanding of Orkney during the lifetime of Magnus”.

20170527_134758Dan Lee, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, said, “We are really excited to be able to run such a wide and varied programme of community focused archaeology events focused on the story of St Magnus in this important commemorative year. We hope that together we can learn something new about the world of Magnus, and the life and death of one of the most significant historical figures in Orkney”.

For more information or if you want to take part please contact the UHI Archaeology Institute. Contact details: