Ness of Brodgar monograph available to pre-order

The third volume in the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute research series is available to pre-order now.

The Ness of Brodgar – As it Stands provides a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the Ness of Brodgar excavations and is due to be released on November 18.

The full-colour book features contributions from University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute staff as well as specialists from around the world. The result is 27 chapters, each devoted to different elements of the site, its excavation and interpretation.

The Ness of Brodgar: As it Stands, edited by Nick Card, Mark Edmonds and Anne Mitchell, is published by The Orcadian, priced £35.99. To pre-order, click here.

‘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.

Ness of Brodgar Success Acknowledged in Scottish Parliament

The debating chamber, Holyrood

The Ness of Brodgar has been congratulated in the Scottish Parliament for its success in the 2019 Shanghai Archaeology Forum Field Discovery Awards.

Many thanks to Orkney MSP Liam McArthur for tabling the motion. This is the second time the joint University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Ness of Brodgar Trust managed project has been acknowledged at Holyrood. The first was in 2011, when the excavation won the Current Archaeology Research Project of the Year.

The motion in full reads…….

Motion S5M-19892: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 14/11/2019

That the Parliament congratulates Ness of Brodgar Excavations in Orkney on winning the 2019 Shanghai Archaeology Forum Field Discovery Award from a shortlist of 141 global nominations; notes that this award recognises archaeological excavations that have uncovered major discoveries that significantly advance or alter understanding of the human past; acknowledges that the Orkney site, which is one of the most significant archaeological finds in Western Europe, was nominated by members of the German Archaeological Institute and the University of Cambridge; recognises that the project is managed by the University of Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute in conjunction with the Ness of Brodgar Trust; congratulates the volunteers and staff, including the site director, Nick Card, on their hard work and achievements in archaeological research being recognised on the global stage; thanks them for furthering knowledge and awareness of Neolithic life in Orkney through their outstanding and innovative efforts, and wishes the project continued success for the 2020 excavation season and beyond.

Supported by: Bill Kidd, Edward Mountain, Tom Arthur, Liam Kerr, Ruth Maguire, Gil Paterson.

The Ness of Brodgar looking north

Check out the Ness of Brodgar website here for more on this incredible archaeology excavation into the Neolithic in Orkney.

Ness of Brodgar Excavations Wins Prestigious International Award

The Ness of Brodgar excavation

The Ness of Brodgar Excavations, managed by the UHI Archaeology Institute in conjunction with the Ness of Brodgar Trust, has been selected for a 2019 Shanghai Archaeology Forum Field Discovery Award.

The archaeology site was nominated by members of the German Archaeological Institute, and the University of Cambridge for the award

Founded in 2013, Shanghai Archaeology Forum is a global initiative dedicated to promoting the investigation, protection and utilization of the world’s archaeological resources and heritage.

The biennial SAF Awards “recognize individuals and organizations that have achieved distinction through innovative, creative, and rigorous works relating to our human past, and have generated new knowledge that has particular relevance to the contemporary world and our common future.

It aims to promote excellence and innovation in archaeological research, advance public awareness and appreciation of archaeology, foster the protection and conservation of the world’s archaeological resources and heritage, and encourage international collaboration and partnerships between scholars and others from different countries”.

Site Director Nick Card discussing the next step in excavating the ‘drain’ unearthed in 2019

The Discovery Award, in particular, is made for archaeological excavations or surveys that have yielded major discoveries significantly furthering or even altering our knowledge of the human past, locally and/or globally.

This year a total of 141 nominations were received from the advisory members from every corner of the globe.

This number was whittled down to a shortlist of 40 projects. A total of 34 invited members from 18 different countries joined the selection committee to cast votes in the selection of 20 finalists, ten for each category (Field Discovery and Research Awards).

The site director Nick Card has received a fully funded invitation to the Forum in Shanghai, in December, to deliver a presentation and accept the award. Nick added “This is a huge accolade to the Ness and Orkney on the world stage. Congratulations to everyone involved: the students, volunteers, specialists and staff who have all contributed to this success – they deserve it!”.

Check out the Ness of Brodgar website here for more on this incredible archaeology excavation into the Neolithic in Orkney.

A Summer of Finds at The Ness of Brodgar

Aerial view of The Ness of Brodgar. Photo: Scott Pike

Located in Orkney, the Ness of Brodgar is one of the largest and most important Neolithic excavations in Europe.

As the eight week dig season comes to an end, the international team working at the site uncovered an incredible underground structure that sheds more light on the sophistication of the first farmers who built the stone structures 5000 years ago.

With over five thousand finds recorded this year, and over 100 archaeologists from all over the world participating in this years excavation, ranging from students from the University of the Highlands and Islands to others from the American Williamette University, one could definitely argue that the Ness has been a very busy site this season.

Looking across the Ness of Brodgar towards Structure 8 where the drain was found. Photo: UHI Archaeology Institute

Archaeologists working at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute research dig adjacent to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site in Orkney found a massive drain running underneath several of the stone buildings at the site.

The team of archaeologists including ex-students of the UHI Archaeology Institute and volunteers from across the globe uncovered this Neolithic structural gem two weeks ago while working at the rear of Structure 8, and under midden and rubbish deposited in this area.

The team initially found what appeared to be a void, but when the archaeologists removed one particularly large stone, a stone lined drain was unearthed. The drain can be traced directly for over 1.8m, but potentially extends for at least 30m across the site perhaps heading for the Loch of Stenness. It is 50cm wide and at least 70cm deep and there is nothing quite like it on site. Other drains found around the structures are significantly smaller which may highlight its importance as a main drain for the site.

The drain opening at Structure 8. Photo: ORCA Archaeology

The Ness of Brodgar Site Director Nick Card said, “This is an important discovery as it reinforces the complexity of the architecture in the Neolithic at this 5000 year old site and indicates the high degree of planning required in their construction. The only other drain of similar size known in Orkney is the one found at the World Heritage Site at Skara Brae – located just five miles north of the site here at the Ness of Brodgar.”

Nick continues, “This discovery is thought-provoking as it further adds to the grandiose and complex nature of the architecture of the buildings as they are interlinked with one another. Furthermore, it displays the level of planning involved in the construction of this site. This is without even taking into consideration the work required to build and maintain such a drain!”

Nick believes that the drain was built during the primary phase of construction of the later piered structures and taking this into account, it places the construction of the drain at a very early period of the site itself, and means that it played a very important role in the more complex phases at the Ness of Brodgar which followed.

Trench T at the Ness of Brodgar. Photo: UHI Archaeology Institute

This year also saw the continuation of work in Trench T; a trench at the very tip of the Brodgar peninsula that has uncovered one of the most complex buildings on site: Structure 27. This structure is extremely large compared to many other buildings on site, highlighting its importance and significance, and is unlike any other building at the complex or indeed elsewhere. The inner wall faces were built using large orthostats, both upright and on edge instead of the usual dry-stone construction. Even the outer wall faces were exquisitely built, with fine masonry and stepped foundations. The building was abandoned as the remaining structures continued in use and covered with domestic rubbish to form a huge midden mound which could have been seen from a considerable distance – perhaps a reflection of prehistoric conspicuous consumption, and the status and affluence of the Ness!

2019 also found the archaeologists on site unearthing a great selection of incised and beautifully decorated stones that have come to be such a feature of the Ness of Brodgar. One found by Structure 12 was particularly fine with delicately made incised motifs including chevrons and opposed fan motifs.

Macehead found at the Ness of Brodgar. Photo: UHI Archaeology Institute

Another breath-taking find this year was a beautiful yet unfinished macehead found in Trench X by first time University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology student Aqsa. This macehead is made of olivine basalt, a rock type which is believed to originate on Hoy. To add to the excitement excavators found a further axehead on the same day and seems to have been discarded before it was completed.

In true archaeology style, as the site was beginning to wind down, a truly amazing find was uncovered: a human bone. The bone is an ulna, which is part of the lower arm, and is most likely from a young adult.

The human bone being unearthed by Andy Boyar at the Ness of Brodgar. Photo: UHI Archaeology Institute

The bone itself was found in a foundation deposit relating to the remodelling of Structure 10, which is the last major and grandiose construction built around 2900 B.C. This structure required reconstructing within a generation or two of its construction, which is the point at which the builders added a new internal south wall and corner buttresses. Intriguingly this seems to be the point when they deposited the arm bone into the structure’s foundations. It is contemporary with another human arm bone found close by in 2016, along with the leg bones of several very large cattle.

Site Director Nick Card said, “These bone deposits all seem to be part of a votive foundation deposit associated with the rebuild of Structure 10. Other unusual finds from related foundation deposits such as a carved stone ball, one of the largest and most complex decorated stone blocks from the Ness, and unusual pottery forms, all point towards the importance of this remodelling of the largest building at the Ness.”

Further in-depth analysis of the human bone including DNA may hopefully determine if the two arm bones are from the same individual or if not, were they related?

Work on site will continue next year in order to shed light on this site and the amazing discoveries that keep on coming.


The Ness of Brodgar continues to be a major tourist attraction on the island with over 18,000 visitors to the site in the eight week dig season, 200,000 hits on the website and over 1,000 people attending each Open Day. This project is being part-financed by the Scottish government and the European Community Orkney Leader 2014 – 2020 Programme.