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

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 or go to our guide to courses on this blog or visit our University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute web page

Community Archaeology Workshop – Making a 3D Digital Model

Another opportunity to get involved in the Birsay St Magnus 900 Year Commemorations Archaeology Project and learn how to create a 3D digital model.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are teaming up with Birsay Heritage Trust to make a 3D digital model of the whalebone situated on the headland near Skipi Geo, Orkney.

The team will be meeting at Skipi Geo at 10am on the 14th October 2016 for a walk to the whale bone. This will be followed by a visit to the village in order to record some sites there and then onto Birsay Hall to make the computer models and view them.

The workshop should be over by 2pm. Bring warm clothes, suitable footwear and a packed lunch.

All are welcome and the event is free.


The event is supported by Orkney Islands Council and The Birsay Heritage Trust


Training Event at Pett Level Submerged Forest, East Sussex

Pett Level Submerged Forest. Photograph courtesy of Thomas Desaille

A three day training and recording event at the submerged prehistoric forest at Pett Level, East Sussex.

Environmental geoarchaeologist Dr Scott Timpany from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, carried out a Historic England funded project at this fascinating site in 2014 and will be joining the team again for all three days as more trees are recorded at the site.

The programme of events is now confirmed:

Friday 23rd September: A evening classroom session with mini lectures looking at the site, the recording methods that will be used and the CITiZAN project as a whole. There’ll also be a round up of work from local societies.

Saturday 24th September: (low tide 12.05): A guided walk of the site followed by a recording session

Sunday 25th September: (low tide 13.35): Foreshore recording session

It is possible to just attend the talks and/or the guided walk. Everyone who attends all three sessions will receive a CPD certificate and a CITiZAN edition Archaeology Skills Passport. As with all CITiZAN training sessions, there is no cost for attending.

Timings, the classroom session venue and the foreshore meeting places to be confirmed.


For more details contact Lara Band at or on 07718 570384

Archaeology, Teaching and Learning for Class 6

Using archaeology to help teach school children is an important element in our outreach programme.

Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, has been working with Glaitness School and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Rangers to integrate fieldwork into the Year 6 curriculum.

The project not only involved the study of archaeology, but also delved into biology by examining animal bones, art by using Neolithic rock art techniques, creative writing through listening to the stories associated with the site, a little science and of course  history and culture!

Neil Oliver from the BBC helping Year 6

The visit was designed to be integrated into the Year 6 curriculum – to include a programme of cross curricula learning experiences which would draw on the day. In effect the idea was to create an ongoing project which would utilise the resources available at the Archaeology Institute UHI. This is an ongoing project which the teachers and archaeologists will continue to develop as the term progresses.

The whole idea does not stop there….the pupils have used digital technology to publish their work by uploading to their own website blog. The project will develop as the children, with guidance from their teacher, add to the digital record of their learning.

But don’t take my word for it….click through to the Glaitness School blog and see for yourself..Glaitness School Year 6 blog

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


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……


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 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


Community Archaeology: Fieldwalking Photographs

Taken by Gill Tennant, who is taking part in the archaeology fieldwalking project in West Mainland Orkney, these photographs show archaeology in action and working in the local community….providing training and discovering new finds.

You never know what may turn up….

And some video showing the conditions on a good day in April in Orkney….”Dress for the weather not the occasion”.


And the location…..