Community Archaeology, Papa Westray, Orkney

Cott ShorehouseV2A team from Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology and the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute will be on Papa Westray during March 2018, recording the current state of some of the archaeological sites being eroded by the sea.

Volunteers from the community are invited to take part in surveying and recording training at three eroding coastal sites across the island, starting with a workshop on 3rd March at Cott/Shorehouse.

  • 3rd, 4th and 5th March 2018, starting at Cott/Shorehouse at 10am.
  • 6th, 7th and 8th March at Munkerhoose
  • Work at Whitehowe is being arranged for later in March.

All are welcome and you do not need archaeology experience to take part. There is no charge for the sessions and you will have the opportunity to learn some basic archaeological techniques.

Wear stout boots and wet weather gear, just in case the weather closes in and bring a packed lunch if you wish to stay for the whole session.
Contact Paul Sharman on for more information.

The project is funded by Historic Environment Scotland.

Historic Environment Scotland CMYK


Ness to Ness: Art & Archaeology Workshop 2018

nesstoness 2018 flyer FRONT v2-page-001The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have teamed up with Orkney College UHI Art Department to offer the popular summer Art & Archaeology workshop for 2018.

– Dates: 5th – 8th July 2018
– Time: 9.00-5.00 each day
– Cost £250 per person (limited number of concessions at £225)
– Accommodation and food is not included
– Material and transport to and from Kirkwall during the workshop is included

Thursday 5th July Field Day Ness of Brodgar and Ness Battery

After an introduction to the workshop, we will visit the excavations at the Ness of Brodgar. You will have the opportunity to enjoy a bespoke tour with Site Director Nick Card and see its unique art with Neolithic art specialist Dr Antonia Thomas. In the afternoon we will have a tour of the remarkable buildings at the Ness Battery and its unique WW2 painted murals with archaeologists Andrew Hollinrake.


Friday 6th July Studio Day Printmaking with Charles Shearer

For today’s session, we will be based in the art studios at Orkney College UHI in Kirkwall. Inspired by the previous field day, you will develop your creative ideas through the medium of print with world-renowned printmaker Charles Shearer. You will learn the process of collagraph print production from the drawing and cutting, using a range of tools, through to the application of the textures and materials that help give this process its unique character.


Saturday 7th July Field Day Pier Arts Centre and Warbeth Beach

For today’s field trip we will have a dedicated tour of the Pier Arts Centre and its world class collection of British Modernist paintings and sculpture, led by Education Officer and artist Carol Dunbar. The afternoon will be spent on Warbeth Beach where we explore the materials used for art making in the Neolithic, and find out how this striking landscape inspires modern and contemporary artists.

Sunday 8th July Studio Day Printmaking with Charles Shearer

You will be able to develop your ideas from the previous three days further, and continue to work on collagraph printmaking with Charles Shearer.

Formal qualifications are not required for this course.

Cost: £250 for 4 days. Limited number of concessions available at 10% discount (£225) To book, contact Jenna Harper at or telephone 01856 569000


UHI Archaeology Institute Orkney Archaeology Projects – Interactive Map

The archaeology dig season 2018 is rapidly approaching in Orkney.

Archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, ORCA, UClan, the University of Bradford, Willamette University, the Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust, the Ness of Brodgar Trust in addition to a small army of volunteers are all preparing for the forthcoming programme of excavation and events.

Judging by social media conversations it would seem that 2018 will be another record year for visitors to Orkney and to make it easier for people to find the archaeology we have created an interactive map.

Some of the sites are off the beaten track so don’t forget to pack sturdy boots, warm clothing and some waterproofs…just in case you are caught in a rain shower. The sites will close if the weather is too bad, so please check with us if you are planning a trip to one of the outer islands.

Click on the markers and you should see details of the site with web links and directions. To find directions from your present location or another location of your choice:

  1. Click on the place marker on the interactive map above
  2. A box showing a picture of the site, the name of the site, latitude and longitude, description of the site and a link to the site website or blog
  3. Click on the right hand arrow in the red box under the picture of the site
  4. Google Maps will then appear.
  5. Type in your location or let the GPS on your phone find your location for you
  6. Google will show you a route, how long it takes and suggestions for transport operators. It may even show you places of interest, roadworks and alternative routes.

For more information on the sites click here or contact us on


Archaeology Evening Class 2018 – Introduction to Archaeology

DSCN0333The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are now enrolling students for the ‘Introduction to Archaeology’ Evening Class to be held at Orkney College, Kirkwall, Orkney in February 2018.

  • Venue: Orkney College, University of the Highlands and Islands, East Road, Kirkwall.
  • Course length: 10 weeks (2 hour sessions)
  • Commences: 21 February 2018
  • Time: 7-9pm on Wednesday evenings at Orkney College (fieldtrips 6-8pm). The archive session is on a Thursday 5-7pm to make use of late opening at Orkney Library & Archive.
  • Course fee: £100

This new course, taught by leading practitioners and lecturers at the UHI Archaeology Institute, introduces the basic theory, methods and practice used in Archaeology.

Key areas covered include an introductory overview, basic research, chronology, environmental archaeology, landscape archaeology, finds, geophysics and excavation.


The aim is to provide an over-view of archaeology and archaeological practice for general knowledge and volunteering. The classes are workshop-based, hands-on and thematic, delivered in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Class details:

  • 21 February: Introduction to Archaeology (Martin Carruthers)
  • 28 February: Animal bones (Dr Ingrid Mainland)
  • 8 March: Archives and archive research. Meet at Orkney Library & Archive, Archives room. (Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon) (5-7pm)
  • 14 March: Landscape archaeology, geophysics & aerial photographs (Dr James Moore & Amanda Brend)
  • 21 March: Research: Orkney Sites and Monuments Record Office and National Monument Record of Scotland (Julie Gibson & Dan Lee)
  • 28 March: Environmental Archaeology (Dr Scott Timpany)

EASTER HOLIDAY – no classes (college holidays 2 – 13 April inclusive)

  • 18 April: Digital Heritage (Dr Jen Harland & Crane Begg)
  • 25 April: Artefacts and drawing (Martin Carruthers & Crane Begg)
  • 2 May: Fieldtrip 1 (Landscape and Orkney World Heritage Site) (6-8pm)
  • 9 May: Fieldtrip 2 (Buildings & wartime) (6-8pm)

The timetable may be subject to change.

This course is not networked or available online as it is workshop based. 

If you are interested in attending please contact Tina Brown or Telephone Tina directly on 01856 569206 or through the Orkney College switchboard on 01856 569000.

Mapping Magnus dates for the diary 1

Upcoming activities in the Palace village area of Birsay for August and September 2017.

Be a part of this exciting archaeology project commemorating the Magnus 900 year! More activities will be announced soon. Places for local residents and volunteers from Orkney available now.

Book your place now (limited places available):

Phone 01856 569225

This post has been updated click here for new dates


The Cairns Day Seven 2017

The Cairns is located overlooking the stunning Windwick bay

The weather was kinder to us today which meant that the site was a hive of activity.

With many visitors to the site, Ole and Kevin spent much of the day running guided tours, sharing their impressive knowledge of the broch and its associated features.

Stirling University students cleaning the southern outer broch face

After yesterday’s introduction to the type of finds that can be expected on site, the students from Stirling University: Stephan, Maria, Bethan and Hanneke were set to work cleaning the exterior of the southern outer wall face of the broch and reported small finds, mainly comprising bone and stone tools.  Cleaning is an important component of managing the site as it enables us to see areas of contrast, colour or potential features that become obscured after an area has been exposed to the elements for some time, or compacted due to footfall.

The Cairns has several areas which have suffered from historical collapse and teams have been clearing “shillet” – a mix of shattered stone, soil and rubble from these areas to enable identification of structures underneath. Now that the broch floor is mainly clear of this, Woody and Alex continued the planning and recording of the floor features, a necessary task to complete before any further excavation can continue.

To the north of the site near Trench Q, there is another area of historical collapse. Duncan, one of our eagle-eyed UHI students discovered a fragment of bone pin whilst clearing away more shillet. This was a remarkable find due to the method of “rough trowelling” used to clear away this coarse rubbly deposit.

Fragment of bone pin

On a personal level, today has been very exciting. Myself, Paul and Kathryn, all of us UHI students, had the opportunity to plan and grid the souterrain floor and begin the task of gathering 100% of the floor deposits for sampling. The floor was divided into 14 squares known as F1-14 (Structure F is the souterrain) and alternate squares were excavated, material from each square was separated into sample buckets for processing later.

Paul, Kathryn and myself recovering floor samples from the Souterrain

The area that Paul was excavating is directly underneath a (now removed) lintel that was found to contain an aperture that may have been used for pouring a libation into the souterrain. It is hoped that the soil samples may show whether liquids were indeed poured into the opening and what these liquids were. Tantalisingly, during the excavation of his first grid square, Paul discovered a substantial piece of bone, possibly a femur from a yet unknown species. This discovery would correlate with Goodfellow’s 1901 account of bone being discovered nearby in the broch entrance that he had mistaken for a souterrain. The next few days will no doubt reveal more exciting finds in the souterrain deposits.

Paul’s exciting discovering in F12

Blog written by Kath Page second year UHI Archaeology BA Hons student.

UHI Masters Student Professional Placements Begin

Simon working on another Ness….the Ness Battery, Stromness on a rather cloudy day in January

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute MSc programme includes a professional placement in a commercial or academic organisation.

This provides students with the vital experience of working in the often demanding environment of a large organisation. This year, two of our students, Simon and Charlotte, requested a placement in marketing at the UHI Archaeology Institute to gain experience in the increasingly important world of social media communication.

Simon takes up his story……….

“My name is Simon Gray and I am a current Masters student with the UHI Archaeology Institute and for the last seven years I have spent my summers excavating as part of the team at the Ness of Brodgar.

Over the course of this 2017 season, I will be making a series of short, episodic videos filmed on site documenting the key finds and continuing research of the excavation. Further to this, each video will include interview footage and a real ‘behind the scenes’ perspective to bring across the experience and dynamic of the dig team, many of whom, like myself, return each year as a result of their commitment to and love of the site and the team respectively.

It is my intention for these videos to be uploaded to the UHI Archaeology Institute Youtube channel and shared through social media and as many press outlets as possible in order to relay the story of this season’s excavations to the archaeological community, the local Orcadian population and indeed the wider public.

During the two open days on site, and on a frequent basis throughout the weeks as I spend my time at the Ness, I plan to engage actively with the public in order to factor their thoughts and opinions into my research.”

Charlotte excavating the animal bone adjacent to the furnace at The Cairns

Charlottes professional placement aims to develop the social media platforms for The Cairns site and increase local engagement through both digital and traditional non-digital marketing routes. Charlotte has already set up @thecairnsbroch Twitter account for The Cairns site and posts on a daily basis live from the site as part of her MSc placement. New tee shirts also now adorn the diggers and local people are being encouraged to visit through leafleting and other initiatives in the local community.

For more information on studying MSc Archaeological Practice at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute see our blog page