Brochtoberfest 2018 – your chance to be involved

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The Cairns Broch Orkney 2018

Brochtoberfest is an annual celebration of all things related to brochs and the Scottish Iron Age more generally.

It’s a concept originally devised by Orkney Archaeology Society and this year will be the third annual event in the series, and sees the return of the event to Orkney shores after a very successful meeting in Caithness last year, hosted by Caithness Broch Project.

Martin Carruthers, Chair of Orkney Archaeology Society, Site Director of The Cairns Broch excavation and Programme Leader for MSc Archaeological Practice at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute continues………

“The event is to be held in October, as its name suggests, on the 20th and the 21st of the Month, and we intend to broaden the event, and its appeal by including more space for stalls, exhibitions, posters, field outings as well as presentations from professionals, academics, students, and community groups currently, or recently, involved in broch-related projects. There will therefore be opportunities to show-case ongoing projects, initiatives and research.

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I wanted to use this opportunity to invite initial interest in any or all of these types of activity. As you’ll appreciate time is marching onwards so please feel free to pass this message on directly to anyone who you feel might have an appropriate interest, and especially to anyone (students, community groups, professionals, academics, living-heritage professionals, experimental archaeologists) that you feel could be productive contributors to the vibrancy of the festival, whether through presentation, exhibition, demonstration, or other means.

We would, for instance love to have representation from all of the major Northern Scottish Iron Age projects currently under way as well as from collaborators and partners such as Caithness Broch Project, Yarrows Heritage Trust, etc.

The festival organisers would also very much like to hear of anyone who might be interested in representing other archaeological projects from adjacent periods and regions, so those pursuing Later Bronze Age, Late Iron Age and Early Historic themes would also be very much welcome. Our aim is to be broad and expansive in our definition of what is relevant to brochs.”

Please do get in touch with any queries and especially if you feel that you, or your organisation, would like to be involved by dropping us a line at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

Final Week Starts at Swartigill Dig

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The site in it’s landscape

Rick Barton, Project Officer for Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) writes about the latest developments at Swartigill….

We are into the last week of the excavations at the Burn of Swartigill in Caithness, and we have achieved all our key objectives for this season.

We now know that the structures that were originally seen in the erosion of the burn edge pre-date the construction of the passage structure. The deposits overlaying the walls of these earlier structure have been cut into to accommodate the northern revetment wall of the passage. This is important chronological information about the development of the buildings, and ties in with our understanding of the chronology of the site from the C14 dates.

We have also, mostly, defined the extent of the main structure in the trench, which appears to be a sub-oval shape, rather than round or rectangular, with an entrance on the east side. This slightly squashed aspect could be due to the fact that this structure is respecting existing features and buildings around it, using the space that’s available.

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Aerial shot of the trench. Photo: Bobby Friel

The passageway on the north side of the main structure follows the curving alignment of the wall around to the east, and seems to be dropping down in elevation as it goes. Did I hear someone say Souterrain? Well, it’s a possibility, but there is still work to be done here to fully define this feature, as it continues out of our current excavation area to the east.

There are tantalising glimpses of some well-preserved patches of occupation deposits within the main structure. Protected and preserved under a layer of peaty soil, bright red areas of ashy deposit and very compacted surfaces with lots of charcoal are beginning to show through. We will be taking some samples from small amounts of these deposits this year, to further examine their potential in post-excavation. We will hopefully get some datable material from them too.

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A view of the sunken passage on the north side of the trench

This year we extended the trench to the south to investigate a second geophysical anomaly on the earth resistance survey, and it’s looking more and more likely that we have second large structure on the site. We have seen some interesting upright set stone in this area, which look like they have been incorporated into an interior wall face. We are also starting to see a curving alignment of rubble to the south of this, which could be overlaying a structural wall in this direction.

Thanks to the P7-9 classes from Watten and Thrumster primary schools for their hard work helping to uncover this tantalising addition to the site on Monday.

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The beautiful polished shale bangle from the sub-oval house

We have only a few days left of this season, Friday the 7th is our last day on site. There is still plenty to do, so if you would like to get involved, come along and see us.

Archaeology Plus – New Art & Archaeology Project for Blide Trust

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The Blide Trust building in Kirkwall, Orkney

Orkney Blide Trust in partnership with Orkney College UHI and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Archaeology Institute are embarking on a joint project to find out more about the history of 54 Victoria Street, Kirkwall, the 18th Century house where the Blide Trust is based.

Orkney Blide Trust is a mental health charity that has been supporting people in Orkney for over 25 years. The Blide believes people can and do recover from mental illness and it provides a number of services to give the support individuals need.

“We have been planning this project for the past year and it is only now possible due to the £6,100 received from the Heritage Lottery Fund thanks to National Lottery Players, for which we are very grateful”, Frazer Campbell, Service Director, Orkney Blide Trust.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) believe that understanding, valuing and sharing our heritage brings people together, inspires pride in communities and boosts investment in local economies. Archaeology Plus will bring people together in the way envisaged by the Heritage Lottery Fund and increase the skills of the people the Blide supports.

Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scotland said: “Uncovering where, and how, our ancestors lived helps communities to understand their own history and identity. Thanks to National Lottery players, HLF is able to support projects such as Archaeology Plus that produce tantalising clues about the past and provide volunteers with new skills.”

Joanne Wallace, Assistant Principal, Orkney College UHI said “We are delighted to be working with Orkney Blide Trust on this exciting project. We have been exploring and discussing various possibilities and we are thrilled that National Lottery Players through HLF have supported us – we are now eagerly awaiting what will be revealed in the gardens of 54 Victoria Street and how this inspires further creative projects. Please do visit on the 29th and 30th June”.

A number of activities are being planned all of which will have a connection to the digging of a test pit in the back garden that will feature a pop-up laboratory for processing and recording finds. UHI Archaeology Institute Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist Dan Lee said “We are looking forward to working with Blide Trust members on this exciting programme of activities which we hope will contribute new discoveries to the story of Kirkwall”

There will be creative writing, arts and crafts based on what is happening at the dig with guidance and tuition provided by a number of lecturers from Orkney College UHI. It is hoped that a video will be produced and an exhibition held to explain the project and display the finds and creative work.

We start Friday 22nd June with an archive research day where Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon and Blide Trust members will examine the history of Blide House and the surrounding area of Kirkwall.

The test-pit dig will run over two days, starting on Friday 29th to Saturday 30th June. The Blide Trust is opening its doors so anyone can call in and see what is going on. More details are available by telephoning the Blide on 01856 874 874.

The test-pit dig will be open between 10 am and 4 pm on Friday 29th June and Saturday 30th June 2018. During these hours the Blide will be open to the public to come along and see what is going on.

For more information contact Frazer Campbell, Service Director, Orkney Blide Trust on 01856 874 874 or visit their website.

 

Archaeology Meets Design: Creating The Wander Collection

IMG_0403Archaeology meets design in an innovative new collaboration pushing the boundaries of the archaeological map.

Designer Kirsteen Stewart launched The Wander Collection earlier this year in collaboration with Archaeologist Dan Lee at the Archaeology Institute at the University of the Highlands & Islands.

Finding connections in their approaches, Dan and Kirsteen decided to develop a new creative process which combined aspects of archaeological landscape survey and walking, with their references to place, material and time. These were transformed into new forms of digital maps which formed the design basis for a new range of clothing and accessories. Dan has recently been exploring the potential for experimental mappings in archaeology and has developed new innovative ways of combining walks, performance and landscape using handheld GPS (Global Positioning System) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Together, they decided to push the archaeological map and design process in new directions.

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Kirsteen carried a small GPS receiver in her handbag whilst going about her daily routine throughout Orkney’s coasts and islands; from going to work in the studio and doing the daily post office run to dropping the car at the garage or running an errand for the farm at the local Auction Mart.  In this way Kirsteen’s journey through her day was recorded with the GPS receiver – a small device that is used in archaeology to locate the locations of  sites and features in the landscape. At the same time, other places were referenced with additional GPS receiver creating multiple sets of data.

Experimental map made by combining GPS data from a walk

Dan took the all data from these walks and performances and transformed them into experimental digital maps, in the form of line drawings. Whilst the original walks and movements are recognisable in the resulting map, combining the data often resulted in unexpected outcomes and patterns; all embraced by the creative process.

Kirsteen took these maps and combined the simple linear shapes with elemental colours, both inspired by the island landscape the daily paths we take throughout Orkney. This process came together to form The Wander Collection.

Check out the finished designs on Wander Collection look book website.

Their collaboration is still developing, exploring innovative creative processes using design and archaeology. The UHI Archaeology Institute continues to develop strong links with the business sector in Orkney with collaborations with Ola Gorie and Ortak Jewellery.