UHI Archaeology Students on Tour

There is no substitute for studying archaeology in the field, so over Easter, students from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute journeyed to the Western Isles to study a cross section of sites dating from the Early Neolithic to the Medieval.

The itinerary was full and included visits to Barpa Langass (Early Neolithic Tomb), Pobuill Phinn (Late Neolithic Stone Circle), Lionacleit (submerged woodland), Baile Sear (eroding later prehistoric settlement mounds), Bornais (Iron Age broch, wheelhouse and Norse settlement), Cladh Hallan (Bronze Age village), Howmore (medieval chapels) and the medieval Borve Castle. All in two days!

The location of Barpa Langass served as an introduction to the overall landscape of the Western Isles with Dr Rebecca Rennell, Lecturer in Archaeology at Lews Castle College UHI, explaining in detail the context of the monument as the wind whipped around the exposed hillside.

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Up until recently, Barpa Langass was famously the best preserved Hebridean cairn in Scotland and the only example of a Neolithic tomb in the Western Isles where the chamber was still intact and accessible. However, sometime around 2011, a partial collapse of stone, including one of the principal lintels within the passageway, caused considerable damage to the site, which is sadly no longer accessible.

Progressing to Lionacleit submerged woodlands, the students, under the instruction of Dr Scott Timpany, examined the remains of trees and had a brief introduction to the stratigraphy of the location by trying their hand at auguring.

The second day was marked by a visit to Baile Sear – a small island located off the west IMG_4266coast of North Uist. The island itself is subject to severe and ongoing coastal erosion which has exposed a large number of Later Prehistoric remains. Next on the relentless itinerary was Bornais Iron Age broch, wheelhouse and Norse Settlement. This location is marked by a cluster of three substantial mounds. Bornais 1 initially produced pottery of Middle Iron Age and pre-Viking Late Iron Age date (cAD500-800). Bornais 2 and Bornais 3 yielded grass-impressed sherds of the Viking period.

A very interesting feature of the location of the mounds and the chronological sequence of the three mounds is the suggestion that the origin of the township territories and organisation may lie in prehistory-possibly at the beginning of the Middle Iron Age. Cladh Hallan, Howmore and BroveCastle were also slotted into Day Two…these sites will form part of blog posts in the future.


If you are interested in our research work, then check out our conference………..

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Our Islands, Our Past Conference

The conference will be a celebration of island Identities, collective traits and traditions, through aspects of recent and contemporary archaeology. This conference intends to contribute to the Scottish Government’s ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ agenda, initiated by the Local Authorities of the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.

Please see our conference website for themes and further details.

We wish to encourage multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary contributions that engage critically with Scottish islands’ archaeology, as well as comparative islands perspectives.

We invite papers, posters, exhibitions and installations.  Abstracts of no more than 150 words together with name, e-mail and institution should be sent to: archaeologyconference@uhi.ac.uk.

Call for papers closes 30th April 2017.

The Ness Battery, Hoy Sound, Orkney

Orkney is well known for prehistoric archaeology and indeed maritime remains from both world wars. Perhaps less well known are the WWI and WWII heritage sites that still exist on land.

Situated on Hoy Sound, Ness Battery guarded the western entrance to the naval base of Scapa Flow, Orkney. The site itself comprised several gun emplacements, searchlight positions, AA gun positions and a huge command centre which had the task of halting any hostile move through the Hoy Sound.

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The impressive Ness Battery was the subject of a visit by our students last week. Guided through the complex by Andy Hollinrake, the students were given the full history of the site including stories of the personnel that worked to guard the Royal Navy warships anchored in Scapa Flow.

Andy related how each ship that appeared on the western approaches to Hoy Sound were signalled and ordered to stop and await inspection before sailing into the naval base. On one occasion the ferry from the Scottish mainland failed to stop when hailed and so was treated to a salvo of fire from the guns in the battery. The skipper soon heeded the signal, turned round and headed back to the mainland. Andy further elaborated on the story by saying that the gun loaders were so well trained that they could fire at such a rate that 3 or 4 shells could be in the air at once!

IMG_3896The huge, concrete protected gun positions were impressive in themselves, but in a way, the surviving huts (the only surviving examples of coast battery huts present in Britain) were even more impressive as they allowed us to glimpse into the lives of the men who operated this site. The Mess Hall was extraordinary as its walls were covered with an amazing mural depicting English rural life-complete with a windmill, half-timbered houses, wooded lanes and even a gypsy encampment.

A brilliant field visit and our thanks go to Andy Hollinrake for his on-site lecture and tour!


For more information on the Ness battery see http://www.nessbattery.co.uk/

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.

Student Life @ The Ness

It is a strength of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute that students are given the opportunity to dig at sites such as The Ness of Brodgar.

Studying archaeology at the UHI Archaeology Institute means that, not only can you study at one of the colleges across Northern Scotland, but you also are given the opportunity to work on some of the most exciting archaeology projects in Northern Europe….be that The Ness of Brodgar, The Cairns, Swandro, Kirkwall THI, Smerquoy or innovative collaborations such as the Yesnaby Art and Archaeology Research Project. That means getting your hands dirty, getting some on site experience and putting it all into context….

Kyle Roscoe, a BA Archaeology and Scottish History undergraduate studying through The University of the Highlands and Islands Perth Campus takes up the story……

“In the beginning, studying to become an archaeologist seemed like a perilous journey and, to us first years, the end goal can sometimes seem unobtainable. So far, the path seemed paved only with jargon-filled textbooks cemented to the ground with sleep rubbed from the tired eyes of last-minute essay writers.

However, as our time here at the Ness draws to close, that goal appears so much closer.

It has reminded us who study on the Scottish mainland of the benefits of studying archaeology through UHI. The Ness is unrivalled in its importance to understanding prehistory, but more so in the perseverance of its outstanding team of professionals and volunteers. I have never seen so many people smiling while being battered with icy cold rain as I have in this past fortnight.

These past two weeks have brought life and personalities to those characters we see over VC every Wednesday, brought understanding to the diagrams in Renfrew and Bahn and most of all inspired us to shrug off any doubts we maybe had about a future in archaeology.

Through field school we have absorbed so many skills, from excavation to flotation, from planning to recording and from living with complete strangers to entering a beer-drinking competition with them and still making it in on time in the morning!

When you come to the Ness, you immediately get a sense of the overwhelming capabilities of what prehistoric peoples could achieve, and I think being thrown into the deep end quite like we have, has given us the ability to picture the possibilities of what we could achieve and has set our bars pretty high for the future. While this fortnight has truly been an enlightening experience, unfortunately as quickly as we stuck our trowels in the ground for the first time we’re hanging them up for another year of studies.

I’d like to thank everyone at the Ness for making this experience one to remember and I really hope we can all come back and do it all again.”


For more information on archaeology courses available at The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute click through to https://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/archaeology-institute/study-here

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

Open Day at The Archaeology Institute

Invitation to University of the Highlands and Islands The Archaeology Institute Open Day

“Archaeology in a Day”


 

Venue: The Archaeology Institute, Orkney College UHI, East Road, Kirkwall KW15 1LX

Date: Friday 4th March 2016

Time: 1pm to 4pm

Come along to our open day (Archaeology in a Day) to discover what studying Archaeology at The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute has to offer. Not only can you visit our academic departments, talk to our staff and current students, view our learning facilities, but you can also experience workshops on aspects of practical archaeology.

The workshops include:

  • Osteoarchaeology (where you can observe a class examining excavated bones)
  • Finds from The Cairns excavation
  • 4000 year old Ceramics
  • Rocks and archaeology
  • Examining Teeth!

You will also see how we use the unique archaeological landscape of Orkney to further your studies. The “Archaeology in a Day” Open Day 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. We shall be videoing some of the workshops and posting on to our You Tube channel http://bit.ly/1PF093k so even if you can`t visit Orkney in person, take advantage of one of our strong points and experience distance learning “Archaeology in a Day”.

If you wish to attend then please contact Mary on 01856 569225 or Sean on 01856 569229, send us a message on our Facebook page http://on.fb.me/1SfIx3F , send us a message through Twitter @UHIArachaeology or e-mail Mary at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk.

Nautical Archaeology Society Courses

Are you interested in the maritime heritage of Orkney? Do you want to directly contribute to the monitoring of wartime remains in Scapa Flow? Would you like to learn how to plan a project, locate and record a site, deal with artefacts, undertake ROV surveys and learn how to use GIS mapping software?

Orkney College UHI, Historic Scotland and Nautical Archaeology Society are running a series of courses this year:

 

  • NAS MAC Introduction to ROV Surveys: This two-day course on the 14th- 15th May 2016 will focus on the use of smaller ROVs in archaeological surveys. Students will gain practical experience designing and completing different types of ROV survey. Cost £249
  • NAS MAC Introduction to GIS: This two-day introductory course on the 30th -31st July 2016 will provide an overview of features in QGIS – a freely available GIS software package commonly used by people working with large spatial datasets. Cost £140
  • NAS MAC Introduction to Side Scan Sonar Survey: This two-day course on the 24th -25th September 2016 will provide an overview of Side Scan Sonars, and the applications of remote sensing in archaeological surveys. Students will gain practical experience designing, completing and interpreting Side Scan Sonar survey. Cost £249

To reserve a place on a course or for further information, please contact:

Sandra Henry, Archaeology Institute, Orkney College UHI, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1LX. 

E-mail: studyarachaeology@uhi.ac.uk 

Tel: +44 (0)1856 569223

Maritime Archaeology Courses (MACs) are open to everyone but only members can gain credits towards the NAS Certificate/Award