New Archaeological Science BSc (Hons) Degree Course Now Enrolling

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The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute is pleased to announce the introduction of a new BSc Archaeological Science degree.

This exciting new degree complements our existing archaeology programmes by exploring the range of science-based methods that form an integral part of archaeological research.

The new course offers an opportunity for students to focus on the scientific elements of archaeology including archaeobotany (e.g. cereal grains, seeds, fruit stones), biomolecular archaeology (ancient DNA, lipids, isotopes), geoarchaeology, osteoarchaeology (human bone), palynology (pollen grains), wood and charcoal analysis, together with zooarchaeology (animal and fish bone).

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On this course, you will develop scientific skills and knowledge through a range of science-orientated modules including Science and Archaeology, Biomolecular Archaeology and Archaeological Science Dissertation. As part of the course, you also receive practical laboratory-based learning through our residential module Practical Environmental Archaeology.DSC_0095

There will also be opportunities to participate in on-site archaeological excavation at world renowned sites, such as the Ness of Brodgar through our field schools and excavation modules. You will also be able to take part in ongoing archaeological scientific research being conducted by staff, such as in palaeoenvironmental studies  and zooarchaeological studies.

excavating whales cata sand

As part of the new degree, you will have the option to gain real-world experience of working within the archaeological sector and in furthering your archaeological scientific knowledge through participating in our Placement Module. This module will allow you to make new contacts and increase your future employability for life after your degree. The module will also allow you to experience elements of Postgraduate research should you wish to continue your education with us at Masters or PhD Level.

More information and online application for a start date of September 2018 can be accessed by clicking through to our UHI course webpage.

 

Archaeology in a Day – Open Day at the UHI Archaeology Institute, Orkney

DSC_0067The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are teaming up with Orkney College for an Open Day on the 8th December 2017.

  • Venue: The Archaeology Institute, Orkney College UHI, East Road, Kirkwall KW15 1LX
  • Date: Friday 8th December 2017
  • Time: 1 pm to 5.00 pm

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute is located in one of the most exciting archaeology areas in the world – Orkney in Northern Scotland. Surrounded by thousands of archaeology sites ranging from the Neolithic to World War 2, the Archaeology Institute is well placed as a world-class teaching and research organisation to advance our understanding of the historic environment.

Orkney College prospectus shoot 2011/12

So, come along and experience hands on archaeology at our open day, talk to staff and students and discover what studying Archaeology at The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute has to offer. You will also have the opportunity to take part in workshops on aspects of practical archaeology, including

  • using microscopes to analyse pollen and charcoal unearthed at the Ness of Brodgar
  • examining finds from The Cairns excavation
  • exploring 4000 year old ceramics
  • examining the whale bones unearthed at Cata Sands
  • creating a 3D image from a laser scanner

You will also see how we use the unique archaeological landscape of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to further your studies. The event is open to anyone who is considering studying Archaeology at undergraduate or post graduate level in addition to anyone who is considering one of our short courses.DSC_0095

Check out our website for all our archaeology courses.

If you wish to attend then please contact Mary on 01856 569225, send us a message on our Facebook page , send us a message through Twitter @UHIArachaeology or e-mail Mary at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk.

Archaeology MLitt by Research Studentship Available

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Brough of Birsay

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute is pleased to offer a one year MLitt by Research in Archaeology EU/UK fees only full-time studentship, starting 1st Oct 2017.

Topic: Marine Mammal exploitation in Late Iron Age and Medieval Orkney.

During the late first millennium AD, the Northern Isles of Scotland saw the introduction of a new material culture and permanent settlement by incoming settlers from Scandinavia -the ‘Vikings’- which was part of a broader colonisation by these Norse peoples into the North Atlantic islands. These were largely farming societies, using developed Iron Age technology, but whose agricultural economies were heavily subsidised by wild species, including marine mammals.

IMG_13264The relative contributions, management, and sustainability of sea mammal populations, prior to the 16th century, are, however, currently less well documented and understood than are systems used for terrestrial species. Such data would contribute both to socio-economic reconstruction of early Norse populations, and to millennial scale population dynamics in the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean ecosystems, helping to inform on current and future sustainability of whales, seals and other North Atlantic species.

This MLitt by Research project will take as its focus human interactions with seals and whales in one specific area of the Norse North Atlantic, Orkney. It will seek to establish diachronic variability in the exploitation of and attitudes to these species both within the Norse period (ie c. 8th-15th centuries AD) and between the Norse and preceding Late Iron Age periods.

This will involve research into the distribution and relative frequency of sea mammals, including both artefactual and zooarchaeological evidence, for relevant sites alongside a detailed taphonomic analysis focusing on depositional context, carcase utilisation, butchery, bone fragmentation and artefact use/production.  Historical and ethnographic sources will also be drawn into the study where appropriate.

Research results will form the basis for selection of samples for aDNA analysis as part of a larger project into sea mammal exploitation and population dynamics in the North Atlantic. This MLitt project will also provide data for a pilot study for DataARC, an NSF-funded cyberinfrastructure project that aims to link and organise complex transdisciplinary data sets related to Arctic research.

Specific topics for analysis may include:

  • what whales and seals represented in practical economic terms, as well as social and cultural significance
  • whether Orcadian communities actively hunted great whales, or other cetaceans, prior to the spread of commercial whaling in the 16th and 17th centuries, or if they were mainly exploited in natural or induced strandings.
  • interactions of island economies, climate change, and animal biogeography

This project is being undertaken as part of an ongoing NSF-supported transdisciplinary international collaborative investigation of the roles of marine mammals (seals, cetaceans, walruses) in North Atlantic subsistence and market economies from the early through late Middle Ages (NSF Award #1503714) (PI Dr. Vicki Szabo, Western Carolina University).

The research student will be based at the University of the Highlands of Islands Archaeology Institute at Orkney College in Orkney.

The supervisory team will be led by Dr. Ingrid Mainland at the UHI Archaeology Institute together with Dr.  V. Szabo (WCU), Dr. Colleen Strawhacker (University of Colorado, Boulder) and Dr. Jen Harland  (UHI Archaeology Institute).

For further information on this opportunity, please contact Dr. Ingrid Mainland (Ingrid.mainland@uhi.ac.uk)


The studentship covers fees only at the University of the Highlands and Islands Home/EU rate for a total of 12 months (including writing-up) (https://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/studying-at-uhi/first-steps/how-much-will-it-cost/tuition-fees-research-postgraduate-students/). The project is expected to start on the 1st October 2017.

International are welcome to apply however please be aware that you will be required to make up the difference between Home/EU and International fees.

Applicants must possess a minimum of an Honours degree at 2:1 and/or a Masters Degree (or International equivalent) in a relevant subject.

To apply please send a CV indicating qualifications, any prior research experience (including publications) together with a statement of interest in the project and contact details for two academic referees to Ingrid.mainland@uhi.ac.uk

Closing dates 19th June 2017. Interviews 3rd July, by Skype.

“Oh My Goodness…It’s a Neolithic Axe.”

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The Late Neolithic axe found near Maeshowe

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute continued the 2017 field-walking season yesterday and were rewarded with the discovery of a Late Neolithic polished axe.

An intrepid band of volunteers, drawn from the local community, joined forces with several first-year archaeology students and archaeologist Chris Gee to commence their second day of field walking for the season.

Two fields were walked, located within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site Buffer Zone, near to Maeshowe Chambered Cairn.

The day was cold but fine and the field was heavy going – having recently been ploughed. More than one volunteer fell in the cloying mud, but they soldiered on, picking up finds, bagging and tagging them for GPS survey.

Discussion initially centred on a large stone situated in the middle of one of the fields. Was it a cist lid, a capstone or part of the natural geology? Chris Gee examined the stones and, following discussion with the volunteers, suggested that the stones were, in fact, part of the natural geology of the area.

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The Neolithic axe found by Gill Tennant

A few hours passed and nothing of any significance turned up. And then a small shout went up and Chris was called across to the side of another field where Gill Tennant, one of the volunteers, was walking. She held up a small piece of stone to which Chris Gee calmly responded by saying, ” Oh my goodness. It’s a Neolithic axe!”

The axe itself is made from local fine grain sandstone and is broken in half, probably in the Neolithic, leaving just the end with the cutting edge. The surface has been polished to give a smooth surface, although this has now been weathered. Heavy steel ploughs have repeatedly turned this object resulting in the marks across its surface and recent chips. The surface also has a patina. The axe has obviously been in the top soil for some considerable time.

The axe is probably around 5,000 years old and the interest deepened as everyone realised that the object was from the same period as the nearby sites of Maeshowe and the Ness of Brodgar. It is a little exciting to think that the last person to have held this object, or even made it, could have been inside the buildings at the Ness of Brodgar, lived in the nearby landscape and maybe had relatives buried inside Maeshowe.

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Looking across the site towards the Loch of Harray. Photograph: Kath Page

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


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

New Student Intake Arrive

Across the University of the Highlands and Islands, archaeology students are experiencing their second induction day on their course.

This year, we have been successful in attracting students from all over the world for both our degree and masters courses.

For those in Orkney, today is their first day of fieldwork….visiting the Broch of Gurness and Skara Brae. Martin Carruthers, Mark Littlewood and Dr. Scott Timpany introduced the Iron Age and the Neolithic using the sites to explain how these places fit into the landscape and how research at sites such as The Cairns, Smerquoy and, of course, The Ness of Brodgar feed into the teaching and learning that the students will experience.

New Virtual Archaeology Lab

Archaeology Virtual Lab @ The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are enhancing their digital approach to teaching by creating a virtual archaeology lab.

One of the strengths of The University of the Highlands and Islands in general and The Archaeology Institute in particular, lies in the fact that Archaeology courses at undergraduate level can be accessed across the Highlands and Islands. Our students study at campuses from Shetland and Orkney in the north, across the Western Isles and throughout the Highlands at Perth, Inverness, Elgin and Oban in addition to many smaller UHI Learning Centres. They can access lectures and other resources anywhere in the region, at any time, if they have access to an internet connection.

The Archaeology Institute has enriched the learning experience in recent years by introducing award winning virtual fieldtrips which enable students to ‘visit’ archaeological sites through the use of 360 degree camera footage, commentary, video links and detailed hotspot text. Using the same technology, the services of the Education Support Unit at the University of the Highlands and Islands and funding from the University of the Highlands and Islands Curriculum Development Fund, The Archaeology Institute are creating a virtual archaeology lab. This will enable students to examine finds in laboratory conditions and gain experience in the analysis of both ecofacts and artefacts – from microscopic pollen grains, ancient cereals and weed seeds, fragments of mammal and fish to Neolithic Grooved Ware Pottery.

Dr. Ingrid Mainland, Curriculum Leader for Archaeology stated that, “This is a major step forward for both distance learning students and those studying at The Institute and will add a further dimension to our teaching.”

For an example of a virtual fieldtrip go to our You Tube channel http://bit.ly/25ZOoOD

Living on an Island – The AEA Conference.

Over 70 delegates from across the world arrived in Kirkwall on the 1st April for The Association for Environmental Archaeology (AEA)Conference and Professional Zooarchaeology Working Group Conference.

“Just a few lines to say thanks for a great conference. Lecture programme most interesting; great excursions (thanks especially to Mark for helping us appreciate the exceptional archaeology) and fine conference dinner.I enjoyed every second of it. Even the weather which wasn’t always exactly the best – though we did have glorious sunshine on the Saturday – did not put a damper on proceedings.” Michael O’Connell, Palaeoenvironmental Research Unit, School of Geography and Archaeology, National University of Ireland Galway.

Living and working on an island was the central theme of the AEA Conference held at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. Led by Dr. Jennifer Harland, Dr. Ingrid Mainland and Dr. Scott Timpany, the conference addressed some of the most important issues facing island communities across the world – namely isolation, environmental change and how communities connect with the rest of the world. The aim of the conference was to cast light on how ancient island communities coped with change and perhaps draw some conclusions on how threatened island communities can adapt to change in the future.

It became apparent early in the planning of this meeting that islands hold immense appeal to archaeologists as a destination for fieldwork and indeed as a venue for a conference! One of the conference organisers, Dr Ingrid Mainland said,” What was intended to be a short day of papers quickly expanded into 3 days as delegate requests started to come in. We were delighted to welcome over 70 delegates from across the world on Friday. “

Papers were presented describing archaeological findings from a wide variety of locations from the islands of the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, to Iceland and the cold reaches of the North Atlantic. Topics were equally diverse addressing many aspects of environmental archaeology including the fragile environment of central Mediterranean islands 5000 years ago to the study of land snails in the Western Isles and how they can inform us on ancient environmental change to a paper studying the role of humans on the evolution of own Orkney Vole.

Dr. Mainland added that, ”This was the third AEA conference on the theme of islands and it was interesting comparing the topics discussed at the first meeting back in 1980 when the environment and climate change were not such mainstream topics for discussion. This now places Orkney on the map in the study of island ecosystems within environmental archaeology.”

For a copy of the Abstracts go to the AEAOrkneyProgramme.