Mapping Magnus

Community Archaeology, Research and Training Project during 2017-18 to mark the 900th anniversary of the death of St Magnus.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute has been commissioned by Orkney Islands Council to deliver a programme of community archaeology activities and events that will explore the story of St Magnus and medieval Orkney. The Mapping Magnus project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of Magnus 900, commemorating the 900th anniversary year of the death of St Magnus during 2017.

Based around the central themes of the Mapping Magnus project – Movement & Pilgrimage, Religion & Power, Stones & Bones – activities will include archive research, storytelling and collecting, geophysical survey, walkover survey, excavation, coastal survey, a noust survey and community and schools workshops. Fieldwork activities will be focussed in Palace village and the surrounding area of Birsay. Other key places within the story, such as the site of Magnus’ Martyrdom on Egilsay and the Mansie Stane sites where his body was rested during transit will be included. All activities will involve training and hands-on experiences for the local community and schools, and local volunteers are encouraged to get involved.

There will be an emphasis upon hands-on archaeological research, fieldwork and experiences providing members of the community with an opportunity to explore the Magnus Story in exciting new ways. The project events include archive research and training with Dr Sarah-Jane Gibbon, an exploration of the journey of St Magnus through a walkover survey at the martyr site on Egilsay, a survey of the route taken to Birsay and sharing of oral histories through music and storytelling workshops. Archaeological fieldwork will be concentrated in Birsay, with an emphasis on Palace village and the sites of the medieval Chirst’s Kirk and the Bishops Palace – key places in the story of Magnus. The project aims to characterise the medieval settlement at Palace and contribute something new to our understanding of life at the time of Magnus. Activities will complement and draw together previous archaeological work in Birsay Bay. Key sites and finds from the project will be brought to life using the latest 3D modelling. The project will work with local schools to provide hands-on learning experiences in the class and field.

Fieldwork will be centred on Birsay in Orkney and activities will focus on :

  • Archive research training
  • Geophysical survey
  • Excavation in Birsay Village (25 September – 6 October)
  • Coastal survey
  • Noust survey
  • Walkover survey
  • Schools workshops
  • Music and storytelling workshops

If you are interested in archaeology then join the team and learn new skills by contacting Dan Lee at