The time of year is upon us again when hundreds of people migrate to Orkney for two months in the summer to take part in one of the most exciting Neolithic archaeological excavations in Europe.
Volunteers and students from around the world are starting to arrive in Orkney to take part in the 2017 Ness of Brodgar archaeological dig which starts 5th July 2017 and continues until 23rd August 2017.
Under the direction of Nick Card, Site Director, the volunteers are preparing themselves for the arduous task of removing the coverings that protect the four-thousand-year-old structures. Only then can the archaeological work begin.
The ongoing excavations at the Ness turn up new discoveries on an almost daily basis, many without parallel and they are changing our perceptions of the past. This year will be particularly exciting as we dig deeper into the past and uncover new insights into the world of Orcadian Neolithic society….New questions remain to be answered – What is the purpose of the structure discovered under the midden at the very end of last year? It is currently wide open to interpretation, but as far as we can tell it is unique. What new discoveries will be unearthed in Trench X that leads down to the Loch of Stenness? What will the detailed analysis of the floor layers in Trench P tell us about the use of these enigmatic stone structures and the people who used them?
It is now becoming clearer just how complex and in many ways, puzzling Neolithic society was in Orkney. The new trenches have brought archaeologists face to face with the utterly unknown. As the excavation develops we will continue to tell the world about the remarkable Neolithic discoveries through the new website (http://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/), our social media, the dig diary and video reporting – something totally new this year as Simon Gray, one of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute MSc students, creates a video diary of the whole summer dig.
The dig is open to the public from 5th July until 23rd August and Open Days are being held on Sunday 16th July and Sunday 20th August when everyone is welcome to take part in activities across the site and at Stenness Community Centre.
Dates: open to the public from Wednesday 5th July to Wednesday 23rd August
Standing Stone at the Ness of Brodgar-Painting by Jeanne
Stromness High Street
Support for the Ness comes in many forms, but strolling through Stromness with my family I came across, quite unexpectedly, someone who has boundless enthusiasm for the place…a native of New York, Jeanne Bouza Rose.
The Ness of Brodgar not only attracts attention from archaeologists but, possibly due to the location and presence of Neolithic art, has developed a following amongst artists around the world.
Jeanne Bouza Rose is an artist who has made her home in Orkney and, despite running a successful art and studio and teaching gallery, finds time to support the Ness. Among the incredible pictures of the Orkney monuments, landscape and buildings, Jeanne has found time to produce artworks that help support the work at the Ness.
Jeanne adds, “Colour, light, clouds, wind, standing stones…all things that inspire me to reach beyond my normal life…..Orkney has been a constant source of joy for my art. It is a land strewn with history from the Neolithic World Heritage sites, through the World Wars and now it is making history by drawing world-class culture to the magnetic north of Scotland.”
The Ness of Brodgar has quite rightly attracted a great deal of attention over the last few months, especially with the new BBC2 documentary series, Britain’s Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney hitting the screen.
Nick Card and the team can now confirm the schedule for this season’s introductory talk, the excavation itself and Open Days.
The Orkney Archaeology Society Ness of Brodgar talk will take place on 15th June at 19.00 in the Orkney Theatre.
The excavation will be open from Wednesday 5th July to Wednesday 23rd August.
Tours are available and will be conducted by team members at 11 and 1 Mon-Fri and by Historic Environment Scotland Rangers at 3 pm each day. Archaeologists will be on site most weekdays. However please check the Ness of Brodgar Trust website for up to date information as the weather has a habit of intervening at times!
Tours are also conducted at 1100 & 1500 on Saturday and Sunday during the dig season, but there will be no archaeologists on site during the weekend.
Open Days are being held on Sunday 16th July and Sunday 20th August. Last year over 1200 people attended each event and we are hoping for more this year. All are welcome…and there will be activities for the whole family, so bring along the children for a Neolithic Day out!
On seeing the sheer scale of the excavation visitors to the site frequently ask,”Who pays for all this?” We do not charge for admission and the tours are also free. You can stay as long as you wish. You can ask the archaeologists questions. You can even bring along activities and spend all day there. You will be made most welcome.
So who funds all the work?? Well, the answer is that the project is mainly supported by public donation through the Ness of Brodgar Trust and the American Friends of the Ness of Brodgar with support from a plethora of other people who give their money or their time or both to help. This includes Orkney Islands Council (who recognise the economic and cultural importance of archaeology in Orkney), Orkney Archaeology Society (who amongst other things organise the running of the massively important on-site shop), and the UHI Archaeology Institute.
However, the whole project could not happen without donations from the public….from you reading this, all the other people who visit the website and donate a few pounds or indeed on some occasions thousands of pounds, the people who visit the site and buy a few items from the shop or sponsor a square. This funding is what makes it happen.
Nick and the team would also like to thank all the volunteers who give up their time to work on the site and make the whole project work like clockwork.
If you wish to help support the project then please go to the Ness of Brodgar website and if you can, donate a few quid. Many thanks from the Ness of Brodgar team.
Nick Card, Site Director Ness of Brodgar, looks forward to presenting the exciting story of the Neolithic site to members of the Archaeological Institute of America.
A series of lectures have been arranged to detail the secrets of the spectacular Ness of Brodgar Neolithic complex to members of The Archaeological Institute of America in February and March 2017.
Public engagement in archaeology is integrated into the work we do at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute – whether that is through digital media, public involvement in community archaeology, open days at our sites or presenting research findings directly through lectures.
This lecture tour in the United States and Canada now gives us an additional opportunity to engage people on the North American continent face to face and in many cases thank them for their continued support and interest over the last 14 years.
Due to the level of interest generated in the Ness of Brodgar, lectures are being added as I write this, but to date, the tour takes in 16 locations and starts on 16th February and finishes on April 2nd. Nick will travel over 12,000 km in the process!
The lecture tour has been made possible by the generous award of the Samuel H Kress Lectureship for 2016-17 by the Archaeological Institute of America. Nick would like to express his gratitude for this award.
You may already know that the work at the Ness of Brodgar is supported by organisations including Orkney Islands Council, but a huge amount of money is raised through public donations, from people buying from the on-site shop, sponsoring a square or spending a few hours at one of the many other fundraising events.
I guess that this is one of the special things about the Ness of Brodgar-so many people make the excavation possible through their generosity in time and/or money.
One way in which you may want to help fund the excavation is to purchase a Ness of Brodgar Guide Book. This richly illustrated, 34 page book explains the history of the site in detail and looks at the work that is being completed at this important Neolithic Site. Costing just £6, this book makes an ideal stocking filler for those interested in archaeology.
The introductory paragraph to the guidebook introduces the Ness…..”Fifteen generations separate the early settlers on the Orkney archipelago from the architects of the Ness of Brodgar – an island centre that would endure for 60 generations. The last occupants left the Ness 4000 years ago and for 200 generations it has lain, forgotten, beneath the plough.”
The Ness Through Time
What is the Ness of Brodgar
Discovery and Excavation
The Ness in the Landscape
Mace Heads, Axes and Carved Stone Balls
Art of Stone
Structures 8 and 14 – Multiple Piers and Painted Walls
Structure 10 – 400 Head of Cattle
Structure 12 – Master Builders
Great Walls and Great Mounds
Who were the People of the Ness
The Big Questions
The money raised goes directly to making the Ness of Brodgar work each year.
The Ness of Brodgar artist in residence, Karen Wallis, was on site during the excavation of August 2016 and produced a collection of excellent images of people at work – some of which were showcased on the BBC News website in September.
Karen has now created a “work in progress” video. These images capture something of the atmosphere of the dig that perhaps photography alone cannot.
Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney-Process, Temporality and Context is now on sale online.
To celebrate the publication of this excellent work, the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are joining up with OAS, to hold an event in which Dr. Antonia Thomas will give an illustrated talk about the research behind her PhD.
Discounted copies of the book will be on sale
Venue: Orkney College UHI, East Road, Kirkwall, Orkney
Date: 2nd November 2016
Refreshments will be available
Published by Archaeopress, this publication forms the first in a series by the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and it is available in print and e-format from www.archaeopress.com and is priced at £45 for the paperback and £19 for the eBook. There will be a discount for any books bought at the event.
Archaeopress writes…..The Neolithic sites of Orkney include an impressive number of stone-built tombs, ceremonial monuments and – uniquely for northern Europe – contemporary dwellings. Many of these buildings survive in a remarkable state of preservation, allowing an understanding of the relationship between architectural space and the process of construction that is rarely achievable. Until recently, however, relatively little has been known about the decoration of these sites.
This book addresses that gap to offer a groundbreaking analysis of Neolithic art and architecture in Orkney. Focussing upon the incredible collection of hundreds of decorated stones being revealed by the current excavations at the Ness of Brodgar, it details the results of the author’s original fieldwork both there and at the contemporary sites of Maeshowe and Skara Brae, all within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.
It provides the first major discussion of Orkney’s Neolithic carvings, and uses these as a springboard to challenge many of the traditional assumptions relating to Neolithic art and architecture. By foregrounding the architectural context of mark-making, this book explores how both buildings and carvings emerge though the embodied social practice of working stone, and how this relates to the wider context of life in Neolithic Orkney.
258 pages, illustrated throughout in colour and black and white.
University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Research Series 1