UHI Archaeology Institute student Magdalena Blanz has passed her PhD viva examination.
Magdalena’s PhD thesis, Seaweed as Food, Fodder and Fertiliser in the North Atlantic Islands: Past, present and future opportunities, looked at the importance of seaweed to past and present island communities. Part of this, involved researching how the chemical and isotopic composition of skeletal material is changed by the consumption of seaweed and the impact of fertilising grain crops with seaweed.
Her PhD was funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of Developing Scotland’s Workforce in the Scotland 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.
But it is double congratulations to Magdalena, who also has a post-doctoral research appointment at Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science (VIAS), University of Vienna.
Funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the project is entitled Farmers without borders: Ecological perspectives on the spread of animal husbandry from the Mediterranean to southeast Europe (6500-5500 BC).
It deals with the interrelationships of environmental, biological and socio-cultural factors that enabled the spread of domestic animals in the Balkans, by analysing absorbed organic residues in pottery, stable isotope analysis of animal remains, statistical analysis of archaeological kill-off profiles and computational modelling.
If you are interested in postgraduate research at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, please get in touch by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or see our guide page.
University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute postgraduate student Hannah Genders Boyd updates us on her continuing MRes research into the Bronze and Iron Age landscapes of Gairloch on the west coast of Scotland.
Hannah takes up her story…….” Hi, I’m the latest Research Masters student to join the Archaeology Institute at UHI, based at Orkney College. I’ll be spending the next year undertaking research in environmental archaeology: primarily using pollen analysis techniques in order to reconstruct a prehistoric landscape.
I’m working with a supervisory team from three institutions: Dr Scott Timpany from UHI, Dr Althea Davies from the University of St Andrews and Dr Tim Mighall from the University of Aberdeen, whose collective expertise will guide me through the project.
My background is in history, archaeology and climate heritage – but putting these things together to tackle Environmental Archaeology is a new challenge for me.
Over the following year I will be undertaking a masters by research (MRes) degree, which is a postgraduate course that involves completing original research and producing a 30,000 word thesis at the end of it. My research is based on a group of hut circles (Bronze and Iron Age roundhouses) in Gairloch, over on the West Coast of Scotland.
One of the hut circles at Achtercairn, in Gairloch. Image credit: Dr Scott Timpany
These were originally excavated as part of the WeDigs community project in 2014, and my role now is to understand how the people who lived in these structures interacted with their environment. The Wedigs community are a passionate group of Wester Ross locals who first caught my attention when they were nominated for a Heritage Angel Award back in 2018. I’m looking forward to building on their work and feeding into this exciting ongoing project.
I’m using pollen analysis (palynology) to reconstruct the landscape in which these structures were built and looking for evidence of how these communities were utilising this area, such as evidence of pastoral or arable farming. The pollen I’m analysing was preserved in a nearby peat bog. A 4.2m core was extracted from the bog, which was then sub-sampled for pollen and these samples were processed to create slides.
Pollen grains viewed through the microscope (x400) – tree pollen of alder and hazel can be seen in this photo. Photo Dr Scott Timpany
By identifying the variety of species present, represented by their pollen, we can begin to build a picture of the prehistoric landscape and how it changed over time.
My research will specifically be looking at the Bronze and Iron Age periods to which the hut circles have been dated, a period of around 2400 years (from 2000 BC to AD 400). The project will investigate wider themes such as the temporality of these settlements and whether they were used seasonally, together with how people were manipulating this landscape (e.g. woodland clearance and farming).
I hope to be able to understand more about how these communities responded to climatic changes: we know the end of the Bronze Age saw a serious climatic downturn, I want to know how resilient communities in this area of western Scotland were to environmental challenges and how they adapted to such changes. This is particularly interesting to consider now as communities, and heritage sites, on the West Coast are once again dealing with increased rainfall and other climatic deterioration. I’ll be aided in answering these questions by other techniques, including geochemical analysis and radiocarbon dating.
The view out from the hut circles, looking towards the Isle of Skye. Image credit: Scott Timpany
This year is going to be challenging, as I’m jumping in to palaeoenvironmental studies with both feet. But nonetheless I’m excited. This project offers the chance to delve into an amazing archaeological landscape in Wester Ross and get to grips with how it has been shaped by human activity over time.
Improving our understanding of Bronze and Iron Age land use systems through research which takes into account architecture and landscape is deemed a priority by the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework . Here my research will marry environmental evidence with the knowledge gained through survey and excavation by the WeDigs group: it’s a fantastic opportunity to work alongside the community and enhance the project with specialist knowledge, shining new light on the region through an improved understanding the prehistoric landscape.”
Hannah Genders Boyd University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute @HGendersBoyd
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Student Conference cancelleddue to present public health advice.
If you are a University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology student get out your diaries and write in, “Student Conference, Inverness” where it says 27th March 2020.
On Friday 27th March 2020 the Archaeological Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands is hosting its second Archaeology Student Conference at the An Lòchran Building on the Inverness Campus.
The conference will be attended by students across all areas of the degree programmes from first-years through to Masters degree and PhD students. The theme of the conference this year is Current Challenges in Archaeology.
The day will consist of a mixture of student presentations relating to this theme and a workshop with break-out sessions, designed to team professionals and students together to identify and come up with potential solutions for these challenges. Hopefully, these sessions will provide some interesting ideas and lively debate.
The mix of professionals and students at the first conference was deemed a rewarding experience for all involved and we would love to repeat that experience this time round. We hope the workshop session will be particularly informative and it will be interesting to see if challenges identified by students will be the same as those identified by you and other professionals.
The Programme of Events
Conference Opens, Coffee and Biscuits
(provided) @ Grumpy Chef cafe
Student presentations will be given from both our UG and PG students on a mix of topics. A fuller programme will be provided on the talks and the speakers at the conference, with updates also available through this blog https://archaeologyorkney.com/
The Conference will be held at the An Lòchran Building on the Inverness Campus, the address of which is: An Lòchran 10 Inverness Campus Inverness IV2 5NA Scotland Details on how to get there can be found here: http://www.invernesscampus.co.uk/get-there/
There is free parking available at the campus with spaces directly outside of the main college building.
Neil Ackerman (32), a PhD researcher at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, has been awarded the Robertson Medal from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland for academic year 2019-20.
The silver medal is awarded each year to the scholarship candidate judged to be the most outstanding for that year’s competition.Neil becomes the university’s first postgraduate student to receive this honour. He was selected from 18 awards made in this year’s Carnegie postgraduate scholarship competition.
His research, entitled ‘Scotland’s earliest built environment: halls, houses and big houses’, looks at the earliest buildings of Neolithic Scotland. This period reveals a settled farming architecture for the first time, and also a growth in the size of public meeting halls. Studying the Neolithic period from the perspective of both monumental halls and domestic architecture will uncover a new understanding of the earliest Scottish Neolithic period.
Developing an insight into this varied architecture across Scotland, as well as producing a precise chronology, will also revolutionise the knowledge of the Neolithic in Scotland and wider contacts at the time.
Originally from Edinburgh, Neil graduated with a first-class degree in BA (Hons) in archaeology, based at Orkney College UHI in 2016, before working at Aberdeenshire Council’s archaeological historic environment team for nearly three years. He moved back to Orkney in 2019 to set up his own company, Ackerman Archaeology Limited, and continue with his academic studies. He is undertaking his postgraduate degree through the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute with the aid of the Carnegie scholarship funding.
Professor Jane Downes, director of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute said: “I am delighted that Neil has been recognised for his exceptional work. His undergraduate research supported by a Carnegie Trust vacation scholarship has contributed to our understanding of roofing technology from the Neolithic period. His original thinking has advanced understandings of the extraordinary site of the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney and has had international recognition.”
Talking about receiving this award, Neil said: “This means so much to me. I have not always had a straightforward path to get to this stage. I left school at 16 with few qualifications and worked in various service jobs, before returning to education. I never thought I would go to a university, far less study at this level. “
“To have received a Carnegie Trust scholarship was a massive achievement and to now be awarded the Robertson Medal on top is a huge honour. It helps to confirm all the decisions made to be where I am now. I have a highly supportive supervisory team and together we have put a lot of work into developing a subject that we feel is very important. It is heartening to see our efforts rewarded.”
Neil was presented with his award on Thursday 23 January 2020, at Orkney College UHI, by Chair of the Carnegie Trust for Universities of Scotland Professor Dame Anne Glover and its chief executive chair Professor Andy Walker, Professor Neil Simco, vice-principal (research and impact) at the University of the Highlands and Islands with Professor Edward Abbott-Halpin, principal of Orkney College UHI.
The Carnegie Trust also operates a vacation scholarship scheme for students undertaking a degree course at a Scottish university. In 2019, four students from the University of the Highlands and Islands were successful in receiving awards.
Perth College UHI archaeology student Corrie Glover writes about the exciting activities Perth Archaeology and History Society organised in 2019.
Perth Archaeology & History Society was established in October 2018 to allow Perth students to raise funds for conferences, lectures and field trips.
Without realising, the Society has become a family of like-minded individuals willing to discuss class topics, twitter debates, pottery, shell middens, the joys of neat trench edges, excavating beetles and which hill fort is best suited for defence against a zombie apocalypse.
was a brilliant year to be an Archaeology student in Perth College UHI. The
society members organised Culloden Memorial Evening – a night of guest
speakers, Irn Bru, bagpipes and showing of the 1964 classic ‘Culloden’ – in the
hopes of raising enough money for a field trip. The society was commended and
it’s efforts recognised at the Perth OBI awards where we were presented with
Best Society and Best Student Led Event, much to our surprise!
While the society took a break over the summer, our members kept the spirit of the society alive at excavations at the Cairns, Ness of Brodgar and King’s Seat before reuniting at the Scottish Crannog Centre in October.
a refreshed committee, plans were made for Darroch Bratt to make his way to
Perth and give a public talk about his PhD research into the Archaeology of
Whisky, a combination which the Society fully endorses! (Available on
ourselves further we took a plunge into the depths of academia and invited Dr
Andy Heald to Perth College UHI. Andy gave a lively presentation titled ‘Living
and Dying in Iron Age Caithness’ which left most of us speechless and
considering our next field trip to Caithness. (Also available on Brightspace
2020 is now upon us and another public talk is being planned (follow our Facebook for more info!) We have plans to attend a SCARF workshop, the Scottish Student Archaeology Conference in Glasgow University, UHI’s Student Archaeology Conference, PKARF, TAFAC, Pictish Arts Society Lectures, First Millennia Studies Group as well as more field trips!