Exciting New Project for Stromness-Listening to the Piers

Stromness Piers_Credit Diana Leslie

Stories, Stones and Bones: Listening to the Piers – Exploring the history of Stromness through the town piers.

The Stromness Museum celebrates £9700.00 Heritage Lottery Fund grant as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017

IMG_1907The Orkney Natural History Society Museum, Stromness, has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones grant. This exciting project, Listening to the Piers – Exploring the history of Stromness through the town piers is led by Stromness Museum in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. The programme involves organising arts and science workshops for the public and local schools and is aimed at exploring the history of Stromness through the town piers. This project is part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

The Stromness Museum is teaming up with the UHI Archaeology Institute, local artists, and marine scientists from the International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT) Orkney Campus to give the local community a chance to learn about life on and around the town’s stone-built piers, past and present. The events form part of the ‘Per Mare’ during 2017 when Stromness celebrates the 200 year anniversary of becoming a Burgh of Barony. The project will provide the opportunity for all ages of the community to explore different ways of seeing and interpreting the piers using innovative science and arts workshops held on a ‘Piers Day’ (Tuesday 25th July) during the Per Mare week (24-30th July).

The project team will work with local school children and residents to record stories,IMG_1894 memories and the history of the piers during May and June. Workshops on Piers Day will include archaeological test pit excavation on the town beaches to explore what the town threw away, sea life in the piers and intertidal zone, drawing (5-minute sketches), photography (artefacts and sea life) and time-lapse filming. Participants will learn new science and arts-based skills and help create new insights into the piers. These events are free and open to all ages.

The project will culminate in a temporary exhibition this autumn at the Stromness Museum, including artefacts, drawings, photographs and a new listening post with stories collected during the sound recording workshops.

Commenting on the award, Janette Park (Honorary Curator) said: “The museum is delighted to be able to run such a ground breaking project during such an important year as the 200th anniversary of Stromness becoming a Burgh of Barony. The piers of Stromness are a hugely important part of the shared community history of the town. The opportunity to explore and document the piers for the future will be a lasting legacy.”

Dan Lee (Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, UHI Archaeology Institute) added: “We are really looking forward to exploring these iconic piers and the history of Stromness with such exciting arts/science workshops; combined they will help us all learn about the piers and understand them in new ways”.


Credits: Stromness Piers artwork: Diana Leslie, Photographs: UHI Archaeology.

Stories, Stones and Bones is designed for any not-for-profit group wanting to engage more people with the heritage and take part in the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Stories, Stones and Bones grants between £3,000 and £10,000 are available to groups who want to discover their local heritage. Projects can cover a wide spectrum of subject matter from exploring local archaeology and a community’s cultures and traditions to identifying and recording local wildlife and protecting the surrounding environment to managing and training volunteers and holding festivals and events to commemorate the past.

The Stromness Museum is an independent museum maintained and managed by a committee of volunteers elected from the members of the Orkney Natural History Society Museum SCIO. The Stromness Museum exists to promote natural science, to preserve local history and to offer an enjoyable educational and informative experience to as large a range of people as possible. The museum contains natural and cultural history with galleries focussing upon Canada and the Arctic, maritime history and models, natural history, wartime Orkney and ethnographic material.

See their website for more information: http://www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/stromnessmuseum/index.asp

Community Archaeology in Orkney- Fieldwalking Starts Soon

Early Bronze Age arrowhead discovered by Chris Gee while field walking in the World Heritage Site Buffer Zone, Orkney

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have secured funding from Orkney Archaeology Society and Historic Environment Scotland for this year’s community fieldwalking project.

Organised by Dan Lee and Chris Gee, they will be building on the success of the 2016 Orkney World Heritage Site Buffer Zone fieldwalking project in which over 2000 finds were located, recorded and catalogued by archaeology volunteers. Last year, significant scatters of flint, pottery and cramp were found, including stand-out finds such as flint knives, WWII material and decorated pottery.

9-zoom-using-the-gps-on-field-1The project will commence in the next few weeks (dependant on the weather) and will concentrate on fields in the Ring of Brodgar and Maes Howe area, and wider buffer zone which extends either side of the lochs.

If you wish to participate in the fieldwalking and acquire training then contact Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, on studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

We ask that participants are local to Orkney as dates and sites can change at short notice due to farm activity, weather and other issues outside of our control.

Thanks to Orkney Archaeology Society (OAS)  and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for grant funding to undertake the fieldwalking.

fieldwalking-poster-080317-page-001There is also a talk being held on Wednesday 8th March by members of the 2016 fieldwalking team at 7.30pm in Stenness Hall. All are welcome and it is free to enter.

Bring along your finds for a show and tell.

If you are intrigued by the history and archaeology of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and want to learn more then either drop us a line through studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk or go to our guide to courses on this blog or visit our University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute web page

Rousay excavations at Swandro and Skaill starting this week!

Outreach poster

Investigations at Westness, Rousay start this week

Lots of opportunities to get involved, from workshops, kids summer club, volunteering on site and placement training.

Two Excavations along the Westness shore start this week: at the coastally eroding site at Swandro and Viking Farmstead at Skaill, Westness, Rousay, start next week. Combined, these aim to investigate the deep history of this fascinating stretch of coast.

Swandro excavations: 4-29 July – Local volunteer opportunities. Two 2 week placements for local residents available for mid to late July. Help us excavate this Neolithic to Viking aged site that is being eroded by the sea. Project details and reports here.

Skaill farmstead excavations: 4-8th July – Local volunteers welcome. Help us excavate some test trenches to investiagte the Viking farmstead below the current ruined farm buildings.

Contact Sean Page for details 01856 569229 sean.page@uhi.ac.uk


Community map of the Orkney World Heritage Sites

Ordnance Survey maps show the geography of an area well enough, but they don’t show how people feel about a place. The aim of this project was to tap into the community feel for The Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

Historic Environment Scotland commissioned the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute to facilitate a Community Map project for the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

The aim was to gather memories, experiences, stories and places of significance from the local community using a series of three workshops in order to produce a map of the WHS as perceived by local residents. The workshops were focussed in the Stenness / Brodgar area, West Mainland, Orkney. Text and drawings were collected from the workshops and supplied to an illustrator for the production of a Community Map. The results of the workshops were used to create a map of the World Heritage area as perceived by local residents, incorporating some of the sketches drawn by participants and using their words to represent personal landmarks, memories and associations.

The project was managed by Alice Lyall (WHS Coordinator) and the workshops were facilitated by Dan Lee (Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, Archaeology Institute) and Sandra Miller (HES HONO WHS Ranger). Dan Lee was also commissioned to write a summary report. Iain Ashman (Iain Ashman Design & Illustration, Stromness) was commissioned to collate the resulting material and produce an A3 final map from the results.

The workshops themselves were held during March 2016..

  • Workshop 1: a walk from the Standing Stones of Stenness to the Ring of Brodgar.
  • Workshop 2: two workshops at Stenness Primary School.
  • Workshop 3: two workshops at the West Mainland Day Centre, Stenness.

Contributions were also collected by Sandra Miller from the Connect Project

The three workshops collected a large volume of material in the form of drawings, sketches, notes and poems. All this data was then collated and used to create an A3 map.

The finished map can be downloaded from Historic Environment Scotland website here……http://bit.ly/28Isz2r


New book to commemorate centenary of loss of HMS Hampshire

book4From our friends at The Kitchener and HMS Hampshire Memorial BLOG

Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial

The countdown continues – it is now just over three weeks until people from far and wide gather in Orkney to remember the sinking of HMS Hampshire 100 years ago and the 737 men who died on that stormy June night in 1916.

Relatives of those lost with HMS Hampshire – or HM Drifter Laurel Crown – should by now have heard from Orkney Islands Council about arrangements for the commemorative events. If you have not heard, and think you should have done, please contact Susan Learmonth by email – Susan.Learmonth@orkney.gov.uk – or telephone 01856 873535.

If you live in Orkney look out in this week’s edition of The Orcadian for a programme of events, published by Orkney Islands Council, marking the centenaries of the Battle of Jutland and the loss of HMS Hampshire.

For those of you elsewhere please keep an eye on this page on the council’s website which…

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Volunteer Training Excavation Opportunity

Discovering Hidden Kirkwall.

The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeology Programme.

Excavation in RBS Garden

Phase One of the project involved volunteers receiving training in the use of geophysical survey techniques including Magnetometry, Earth Resistance and Ground Penetrating Radar in Tankerness House and the Royal Bank of Scotland Gardens in Kirkwall Town Centre. The results were then analysed by the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute team, to provide a targeted area for the phase two excavation.

The initial geophysiscs results show two linear features lying from 50cm to 1 metre beneath present ground level. Early analysis suggests they could represent walls, a spread of stones and a possible break of slope indicating the old medieval shoreline.

The second stage will commence on Monday 16th May and continue until Monday 23rd May and will give volunteers an opportunity to gain excavation, surveying and mapping skills. The main dig will involve excavating small trenches in the RBS gardens and will in effect be the first archaeological dig in the town since 1978. The project has been expanded to include pupils from Kirkwall Grammar school will also join the excavation team from The Archaeology Institute on the 17th and 18th May where they will be involved in the dig itself, sieving, mapping, further geophysics and historic building recording in the town centre.

Dan Lee (Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist) adds, “We are really excited about the geophysics results and with the help of the local community and pupils from Kirkwall Grammar School we hope to answer some of the questions concerning the make-up of the old shoreline infill.”

If you wish to join this archaeological investigation and receive training in basic archaeological techniques then please contact Dan Lee Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist on Daniel.Lee@uhi.ac.uk. No experience is necessary and there is no charge! The (KTHI) programme is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland & Orkney Islands Council and runs until 2019.

Western Isles Submerged Forest Community Site Visit and Workshop.

meeting place Saturday 7th MayDr Scott Timpany of The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute will be conducting a community visit and workshop to the submerged forest at Eilean an Dunain, Berneray in the Western Isles on the 7th and 8th May 2016.

This is a community outreach project in collaboration with The SCAPE Trust and if you are in the area on the 7th and 8th May then you are most welcome to attend the visit and workshop.

The outline plan for the weekend:

Saturday 7th May 10am – visit to the submerged forest at Eilean an Dunain, Berneray with Dr Scott Timpany. Meet at the old cemetery at teh end of the road at 10am. We`ll spend a few hours on site and then examine further sites down the west coast. See map below….

5pm to 7pm – Identification and recording session with Scott at the University of the Highlands and Islands College Benbecula.

Sunday 8th May 10am – meet at the RSPB Balranald visitor centre where we`ll look at some sites there and then go on to Bailesear.

Background Information

The remains comprise a series of thin peat (or mud) matrix sections c. 300mm thick extending out from below the machair sand dunes into the inter-tidal zone between the dune face and nearby tidal island of Eilean an Dunain. Study of satellite imagery and mapping shows considerable changes in the coastline in this area since it was first surveyed by the OS in 1878, a process that appears to have accelerated in recent years. (See location/context plan). This suggests that whilst some sections of the matrix nearer the HWM may have been exposed for a while, those nearer the island have remained buried by sand until relatively recently.

These exposures, which cover an area c.20 X 8m, differ from those further NW in that they have embedded within them a significant quantity of timber remains including brushwood, twigs, thin branches and whole trunks with bark intact up to 150mm in diameter. The distribution of the timber remains is not even; the areas to the E and SE including large quantities of smaller sized material fully embedded within the matrix (see image 2). Further E is a higher concentration of whole tree trunk sections, around a dozen in total, all roughly 100-150mm in diameter and 1 – 1.5m long and embedded in the matrix surface. 6 of these are located in a line at roughly the same E-W orientation, the others scattered about nearby (see location plan and image 3). In two places similar size tree trunk sections can be seen lying underneath and at right angles to those on the surface.

Detailed study of the timber suggests the most likely species is Silver Birch and a cut through a recovered loose trunk section suggests an age of perhaps 15-20 years. One trunk section has a possible notch cut.

In general finds like this are believed to be the remains of submerged forests buried in peat which is believed to have happened around 4-5,000 years ago as sea levels rose and the climate cooled and became wetter. Despite that, at this location there is the possibility of a different explanation, in that perhaps these are the remains of a manmade timber track leading between an old lake shore and Eilean an Dunain where several cist burials were recorded in times past (SCHARP 9047), though now washed away.

(Thanks to SCAPE web page http://bit.ly/1rTBiUy)