Project Update: Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre, Land and Sea

20170613_164533_LRWork at Skaill farmstead, Westness, Rousay, got underway last week with some building survey, walkover survey and a workshop with the Rousay Community School.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute were joined by the Historic Environment Scotland (HES) survey team to record the remains of the buildings at Skaill farmstead and The Wirk (Norse tower). This is the first phase of the Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Land and Sea: Exploring Island Heritage, Past and Present project – a summer of activities and reaearch.

20170613_162201_LRThe HES team produced accurate scaled drawings of the buildings (plans and sections) using a plane table and alidade – a basic but very effective survey method which results in highly accurate scale drawings. At Skaill farmstead, these included features such as the fireplaces, doorways, blocking, alcoves and shelves allowing the different phases of construction to be identified. The house was extended four times to the north as the farm expanded during the 18th and 19th centuries. In the barn, the beautiful corn drying kiln was recorded along with a flue, a grain store, winnowing doors and vents. A dairy was identified at the northern end of the house.

Walkover survey was started around the farmstead with the help of volunteers. Features such as the stone walled enclosures, and earthworks such as banks and terraces were recorded. These sites were mapped with a handheld GPS and help to place the farm buildings into a wider context. An earlier phase of enclosure, perhaps and early hill dyke, was walked on the steep slope above the road.

Ten pupils from the Rousay Community School had a day of activities during the week. This started with a class-based workshop about what archaeologists do, how we know where to look, what we find and what this can tell us. They looked at finds and thought about what you might expect to find below the ground, especially in a farm mound such as that at Skaill, and above the ground in terms of built heritage.

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The class then visited Skaill farmstead and after a picnic lunch found out about building recording and photography from the HES team. Pupils traced from the geophysics plot of the farm and we looked at what we could see on the ground. They finished by drawing their own plans of the farm buildings. The weather was kind and a good day was had by all.

We look forward to starting the excavations at Skaill and Swandro next month!

The project has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones grant and additional funding from the Orkney Islands Council Archaeology Fund.

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Dates for the diary:

  • 10-23 July: Excavations at Skaill farm. Test pit weekend/open days 22-23 July. Volunteers and visitors welcome.
  • 3-28 July: Excavations at Swandro coastally eroding site. details available soon.

Volunteers welcome! Please get in touch if you want to take part in the fieldwork at Skaill.

Contact The Archaeology Institute for details on how to take part: studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk tel: 01856 569225


 

The Cairns Day Five 2017

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Woody working in the broch

In contrast to yesterday the weather has been kind. Happily, and despite some reduced numbers on the team today, significant progress has been made.

In the north-east quarter of trench Q the furnace structure has revealed ever more detail of its construction and use and further articulated remains of a young sheep (or goat) have been lifted from the teardrop shaped construction in front of the furnace along with a variety of animal bone including a jawbone probably from an older animal. Some of the collapsed stone behind the furnace has also been shown to be contemporary with its construction, so Dave has told me.

Meanwhile, back in the Broch itself the hard-working crew led by Woody (who probably has a real name, but nobody knows) has managed to complete the herculean task of emptying several tonnes of rubble from the interior, lifted over the standing structure and across difficult terrain to finally reveal the remaining standing construction  inside the structure

For myself and the others, working in the new extension of the trench (currently known simply as “South West Extension”)  further sessions of heavy trowelling have successfully revealed a layer of large stones that may, or may not, be “a something”.

We have also convinced ourselves that we have one or two possible edges of a ditch (or the remains of ridge and furrow) that are revealed at this early stage. Time and trowel will tell as they say…

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Work continuing in the South West Extension
As an older volunteer, I can recommend The Cairns as a friendly environment in which to work, but in hindsight I would have done more to increase my fitness and stamina before the start of the dig. The first week ends with very few of my leg muscles being in good condition. You live and learn! ‘
Peter Shackleton, volunteer excavator

 

Exciting New Mapping Magnus Project Launched

image4144The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are pleased to announce the launch of a major new community archaeology research and training project in Orkney.

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.

Dates for the diary: Excavations in Palace village: 25 Sept – 6th October 2017

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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 Christ’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.

The Mapping Magnus project will contribute to other Magnus related projects during 2017 including the St Magnus Way Pilgrimage route and wider Magnus 900 activities.

Antony Mottershead, Orkney Island’s Council Arts Officer, said, “We are very happy to be working with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute through the Mapping Magnus project. The knowledge and expertise within their team will enable them to quickly focus in on areas of interest and, we hope, add significantly to our understanding of Orkney during the lifetime of Magnus”.

20170527_134758Dan Lee, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, said, “We are really excited to be able to run such a wide and varied programme of community focused archaeology events focused on the story of St Magnus in this important commemorative year. We hope that together we can learn something new about the world of Magnus, and the life and death of one of the most significant historical figures in Orkney”.

For more information or if you want to take part please contact the UHI Archaeology Institute. Contact details: studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk


Community Archaeology and Open Day in Rousay

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The first phase of the community archaeology project – Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Land and Sea: Exploring Island Heritage, Past and Present – will be commencing on the 13th June and continuing until 16th June 2017.

This phase of the project includes archaeological building recording by the Historic Environment Scotland survey team and walkover survey with the UHI Archaeology Institute at Skaill farmstead, Westness, Rousay, on the shores of  Eynhallow Sound. The built remains of the 18th-centry farmstead will be recorded.

IMG_0992Come and join the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Historic Environment Scotland team to survey the intriguing remains at Skaill farmstead.

There are still two places available for anyone who is interested in buildings archaeology and would like to take part in the survey on  14th and 16th June. Volunteers don’t need any experience of archaeology as training in basic survey techniques will be provided.  Contact Dan Lee at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk to book a place.

The project will continue on 15th June with the team holding a workshop at Rousay School in the morning and a site visit in the afternoon.

The full programme culminates at Skaill farmstead in an open afternoon on Friday 16th June where visitors will be invited to meet the team, see the results of the work and try some practical activities. All welcome!

This is the first event in a series of community archaeology events on Rousay this summer. Watch out for excavations at Skaill 10-23 July.

   

 

Exciting New Project for Stromness-Listening to the Piers

Stromness Piers_Credit Diana Leslie

Stories, Stones and Bones: Listening to the Piers – Exploring the history of Stromness through the town piers.

The Stromness Museum celebrates £9700.00 Heritage Lottery Fund grant as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017

IMG_1907The Orkney Natural History Society Museum, Stromness, has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones grant. This exciting project, Listening to the Piers – Exploring the history of Stromness through the town piers is led by Stromness Museum in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. The programme involves organising arts and science workshops for the public and local schools and is aimed at exploring the history of Stromness through the town piers. This project is part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

The Stromness Museum is teaming up with the UHI Archaeology Institute, local artists, and marine scientists from the International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT) Orkney Campus to give the local community a chance to learn about life on and around the town’s stone-built piers, past and present. The events form part of the ‘Per Mare’ during 2017 when Stromness celebrates the 200 year anniversary of becoming a Burgh of Barony. The project will provide the opportunity for all ages of the community to explore different ways of seeing and interpreting the piers using innovative science and arts workshops held on a ‘Piers Day’ (Tuesday 25th July) during the Per Mare week (24-30th July).

The project team will work with local school children and residents to record stories,IMG_1894 memories and the history of the piers during May and June. Workshops on Piers Day will include archaeological test pit excavation on the town beaches to explore what the town threw away, sea life in the piers and intertidal zone, drawing (5-minute sketches), photography (artefacts and sea life) and time-lapse filming. Participants will learn new science and arts-based skills and help create new insights into the piers. These events are free and open to all ages.

The project will culminate in a temporary exhibition this autumn at the Stromness Museum, including artefacts, drawings, photographs and a new listening post with stories collected during the sound recording workshops.

Commenting on the award, Janette Park (Honorary Curator) said: “The museum is delighted to be able to run such a ground breaking project during such an important year as the 200th anniversary of Stromness becoming a Burgh of Barony. The piers of Stromness are a hugely important part of the shared community history of the town. The opportunity to explore and document the piers for the future will be a lasting legacy.”

Dan Lee (Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, UHI Archaeology Institute) added: “We are really looking forward to exploring these iconic piers and the history of Stromness with such exciting arts/science workshops; combined they will help us all learn about the piers and understand them in new ways”.

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Credits: Stromness Piers artwork: Diana Leslie, Photographs: UHI Archaeology.


Stories, Stones and Bones is designed for any not-for-profit group wanting to engage more people with the heritage and take part in the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Stories, Stones and Bones grants between £3,000 and £10,000 are available to groups who want to discover their local heritage. Projects can cover a wide spectrum of subject matter from exploring local archaeology and a community’s cultures and traditions to identifying and recording local wildlife and protecting the surrounding environment to managing and training volunteers and holding festivals and events to commemorate the past.

The Stromness Museum is an independent museum maintained and managed by a committee of volunteers elected from the members of the Orkney Natural History Society Museum SCIO. The Stromness Museum exists to promote natural science, to preserve local history and to offer an enjoyable educational and informative experience to as large a range of people as possible. The museum contains natural and cultural history with galleries focussing upon Canada and the Arctic, maritime history and models, natural history, wartime Orkney and ethnographic material.

See their website for more information: http://www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/stromnessmuseum/index.asp


Archaeological Building Survey Opportunity, Kirkwall

Rear 10 Victoria Street 2

Archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute will be completing a further Archaeological Building Survey Workshop on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th May 2017 (10am – 3pm).

This continues on from the work completed at Parliament Square in April and the town centre excavations, surveys and gardens digs last year in the Kirkwall THI Archaeology Programme. The workshop will include basic training in building survey techniques, mapping, photography and a trip to the archives.

The work will commence in the court yard to the rear of Finns former shop (10-12 Victoria Street), opposite RBS bank. Access is through the gate to the right of Spence’s Newsagents. The day will include training in scale drawing, photography, written records and how to look at buildings archaeologically. The building itself contains large amounts of re-used medieval stone.

Further workshops will also be recording the Old Castle on Main Street the following weekend (26-27 May, with some laser scanning the day after on the 28th).

For further information on the project see our previous blog post.

If you would like to take part in these free archaeology workshops then please contact Dan Lee on studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk


New Field Archaeology Short Course @ The Cairns

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The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are now enrolling for a new short course in Field Archaeology to be held at The Cairns Broch site – one of Orkney’s leading excavations.

  • When?                                    21-23 June 2017 (3 full days 9:00 – 16:30)
  • Where?                                   The Cairns Broch excavations, South Ronaldsay, Orkney
  • What does it cost?                 £190.00 per person
  • How do I book?                     Contact Mary Connolly at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

This new short course in Field Archaeology from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Archaeology Institute aims to provide participants with basic training and understanding of the practices and processes in Field Archaeology.

Located at the on-going excavations at The Cairns broch, South Ronaldsay, Orkney, training will cover:

  • excavation techniques
  • finds identification
  • the principles of stratigraphy
  • basic site survey and
  • archaeological recording (drawn, written and photographic record).

Val-and-Helen-excavating-inside-the-broch-using-a-floor-sampling-gridIn a friendly and supportive atmosphere, the course aims to equip participants with the skills and confidence to engage with other archaeological field projects or lead onto further studies in the discipline. Participants will be trained by professional archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and will form part of the large team at the excavation site.

Recommended equipment: Steel toe boots/wellies, full waterproofs, packed lunch and flask.

Please note: Toilet facilities are provided. Participants are to meet at the excavation site each day at 9:00. Accommodation, travel and lunch are not included.

Places are limited (12 max.) so book now by contacting Mary Connolly at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

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