Day 2 & 3 Kirkwall Dig.

 

Discovering Hidden Kirkwall.

The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeology Programme. Excavation in the RBS Garden.

Day 1 in the classroom. Day 2 & 3 in the rain.

On Monday 16th May, Dan Lee (Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist)and Sean Page (Marketing Officer) spent a preparation day at Kirkwall Grammar School involving pupils from S3 history and geography classes in a decision making project. We wanted to include them in the archaeological process as a whole so we devised a learning exercise in which we created a decision making lesson that asked the question…..Where shall we put the trench?

To answer the question we asked the pupils to decide and back up their decision with reasons. We provided them with maps from 1827, 1882, aerial photographs, 19th century photographs of the area and geophysics results. They then collectively had to decide where the trench was going to be located on the following day.

RBS Geophys
Geophysics of the RBS garden. Pupils had to decide where to dig.

The preparation day itself also placed the whole project into context and tied it into the work that the Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative was undertaking in the town. We asked what is an archaeologist (involving various pictures of various people doing various things), what is archaeology and how is it different to history, what do archaeologist do, how do you become an archaeologist and touched on the transferable skills that an archaeologist develops. In effect we looked at how to develop a career in archaeology; something which was attractive to many pupils.

The preparation day was followed by two days in the field. It rained on the first day and drizzled on the second so they fully appreciated the benefit of correct clothing! Pupils undertook three activities throughout the whole day. These activities included surveying using a Leica TCR 1205+R400 Total Station Theodolite (TST) ,mapping, historical town survey and of course taking part in the excavation, sieving and finds washing in the RBS garden. It was a real hands on archaeological experience !

The objectives of the archaeology project were to try and answer these questions:

  1. What is the location, character and depth of the former shoreline and piers to the west of the town centre of Kirkwall (between Broad Street and Junction Road)
  2. Is there any evidence for the former layout of the museum gardens ?
  3. Do remains of the range of buildings depicted on the 1882 Ordnance Survey map survive below ground level. What is the character and depth of these remains where they do survive?

It is still a little early in the project to answer all of these questions, but we can say that the pupils found a feature which looks at this stage like a wall. Could it be part of the old shoreline wall? A garden feature ? A roadway? Well at this stage it is very hard to tell, but at the end of day 3 the team had excavated three courses of stone…so it looks like a wall. Finds included a sharpening stone, possible 17th Century ceramics, a stem and base from an 18th century wine glass, animal bones and a few pieces of flint (maybe washed down from the site of the Broch behind the site ??.

The excavation will be open another three days so we should be able to answer some of our questions more fully. However today (Thursday 19th May) we will be welcoming pupils from Glaitness Primary School….so who knows what we will find !

First dig in Kirkwall since 1978 starts today

Discovering Hidden Kirkwall.

The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Archaeology Programme.

Excavation in RBS Garden

Archaeologists from The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute team will be commencing the excavation today; the first research – led excavations in the town since 1978. The site in the RBS Bank gardens will open from 9:30am to 4:30pm each day from Monday 16th May until Saturday 20th May and visitors are welcome to visit and talk to the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute team.

As part of the community programme we will be training volunteers and involving the local schools in the dig itself, mapping in the Museum Gardens and historical mapping in the town itself – piecing together the story of Kirkwall.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week KGS pupils are involved in three studies:

  1. Excavation, sieving and finds washing in the RBS gardens.
  2. Geophysics, surveying and mapping in the Museum Gardens
  3. Historical mapping in the town itself

These archaeological investigations will build on the geophysics survey completed two weeks ago and will help us discover answers to the questions

  1. What is the location, character and depth of the former shoreline and piers to the west of the town centre of Kirkwall (between Broad Street and Junction Road)
  2. Is there any evidence for the former layout of the museum gardens ?
  3. Do remains of the range of buildings depicted on the 1882 Ordnance Survey map in the southern part of the museum gardens survive below ground level. What is the character and depth of these remains where they do survive?

Pupils from Glaitness School will also be on site on Thursday 19th May from 10.30 until 12.30pm to help us in the dig.

 

Fieldwalking in Orkney: End of Week One

Despite some seasonal weather, the first week of fieldwalking in the Orkney World Heritage Site buffer zone has finished and six fields have been walked to the east of the Loch of Harray.

23 intrepid volunteers have been out over three days in mixed weather, thankfully Wednesday was sunny and dry! We’ve walked fields around Maesquoy and Ness Farm (many thanks to the landowners). Views across the loch to Brodgar are spectacular from this part of the parish.

20160309_090151We’ve had some scatters of flint (including a knife and scrapper), an area of cramp (burnt material usually associated with pyres or burials) and some interesting post-medieval and modern pottery, clay pipes and a glass bead.

Due to the wet conditions over the winter few new fields have been ploughed this year, so we have been focusing on fields that were ploughed before Christmas. These are nicely weathered and finds are easily visible on the surface. We are collecting finds in 10m transects and logging the position with an centimetre accurate GPS (Global Navigation Satellite System – currently using US GPS Navstar and Russian Glonass constellations for the techi amongst you !) . Let’s hope the weather improves and the farmers can get ploughing soon.

More next week.

Orkney Archaeology Society

Lottery fund cmyk (2)

 

 

 

Sharing Heritage: Orkney World Heritage Site Fieldwalking Project celebrates £9900 Heritage Lottery Fund grant

Fieldwalking near Maes Howe, Mainland Orkney
Fieldwalking near Maes Howe, Mainland Orkney

Orkney Archaeology Society has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Sharing Heritage grant, it was announced today. This exciting project, Orkney World Heritage Site Fieldwalking Project: Learning About Archaeology Amongst Orkney’s World Famous Monuments, in the West Mainland of Orkney and led by Orkney Archaeology Society with partners at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, has been given £9900 to undertake archaeological fieldwalking in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site Buffer Zone.
The project, due to start this week, aims to follow the process of a fieldwalking project from discovery in the field, through a series of archaeology workshops, culminating in a temporary exhibition at Tankerness House Museum in Kirkwall in the autumn. The project is open to local volunteers who will be trained in field practice, lithics, finds processing, map making, presenting results, report writing and the final museum exhibition, which will be run as a series of workshops throughout the year. There will also be a fieldwalking workshop run in collaboration with the Historic Environment Scotland Rangers at Stenness Primary School.

Axe butt found in a field in the stenness area
Axe butt found in a field in the Stenness area

Fieldwalking involves the surface collection of artefacts in ploughed fields on a grid so that distribution patterns over larger areas can be observed. Fieldwalking around Maes Howe and along the Ness of Brodgar peninsula has the potential to add a significant layer of landscape interpretations to the area. This will enhance the results from the recent World Heritage Area geophysical survey undertaken by the University’s Archaeology Institute. This revealed a multi-period landscape of enclosures, settlements, rig and furrow cultivation and prehistoric sites beneath the ground surface. Fieldwalking has already proved fruitful in the area with the discovery of Barnhouse Neolithic settlement by Professor Colin Richards in the 1980s using this technique. The current fieldwalking project will recover artefacts from every period – for example material from the WWII camps around Maes Howe- not just prehistoric finds, bringing the story of the landscape up to the present day.
There are a number of trainee places available for the fieldwalking and various follow up workshops. Contact Dan Lee at the Archaeology Institute if you wish take part. Volunteers are also needed to help with all aspects of the project.
The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and supported in kind by Historic Environment Scotland, Orkney Museums, and Professor Mark Edmonds. Orkney Archaeology Society would like to thanks local landowners for supporting the project and allowing access to fields.
Martin Carruthers, OAS Chair said:
‘Orkney Archaeology Society are excited by this fantastic opportunity to support the local community in discovering the wealth of heritage below their feet in the Orkney World Heritage Area. We are looking forward to the excitement, enjoyment and learning that such projects can bring.’

Dan Lee, Archaeology Institute Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist said:
‘We are thrilled to be working with Orkney Archaeology Society in such an iconic landscape to provide learning experiences in archaeology for the local community. We hope that local volunteers and trainees will enjoy bringing new stories to this important landscape’

Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland, said: “Sharing Heritage is a wonderful opportunity for communities to delve into their local heritage and we are delighted to be able to offer this grant so that the Orkney World Heritage Site Fieldwalking Project can embark on a real journey of discovery. Heritage means such different things to different people, and HLF’s funding offers a wealth of opportunities for groups to explore and celebrate what’s important to them in their area.”

Contact Dan Lee (University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute) for more details and to register as a volunteer 01856 569214 Daniel.Lee@uhi.ac.uk

Eating out in Skye 8000 years ago.

NUTS found during an archaeological dig in Skye were from the hunter gatherer period more than 8,000 years ago, tests have confirmed.

The hazelnut shells were discovered during the five-day excavation by Staffin Bay in September 2015 when University of the Highlands and Islands archaeologists investigated a suspected Mesolithic structure, in collaboration with the Staffin Community Trust (SCT).

Radiocarbon dates have now confirmed the excavated lithics date to the Mesolithic period, towards the latter half of the 7th millennium BC.

Two fragments of charred hazelnut shell both returned dates of circa 6800-6600 BC (calibrated). The hazelnuts were recovered from soil samples from the lower part of the sequence at the site, suggesting human activity may have occurred over a long period of time.

The north Skye archaeological excavation has yielded a fragment of worked bone, and several thousand flints which could provide a fuller picture of Staffin’s hunter-gatherer period. The flint assemblage recovered from the same layer is currently being quantified and analysed.

While the structure at the site is likely to date to the post-medieval period, confirmation of Mesolithic dates for the layers below could provide further clues about life in the area 8,000 years ago. The new dates are just a bit earlier than the earliest dates from material recovered from the base of the section excavated at the nearby An Corran rock shelter, which was excavated in the 1990s. Both sites were essentially contemporary and one of many dating to this period along the Staffin Bay coastline.

Dan Lee, Archaeology Institute UHI, lifelong learning and outreach archaeologist, said: We are really pleased to have such convincing Mesolithic dates from the site. This hints at the huge potential for additional excavations in the area and presents a great opportunity to understand life in the Staffin area during this period.”

SCT director Dugald Ross said: “The lab confirmation of human activity in the local area close to 9000 years ago is a huge bonus to all who took part and we eagerly await the next phase of research.”

SCT would like to thank the Garafad township and Kilmuir Estate for permission to carry out the excavation. The project was funded by the Scottish Funding Council via Interface Scotland, Highland Council and the Carnegie Foundation of New York.

SCT and UHI are to discuss how further work can be carried out in the Staffin area following this exciting discovery from the community-led project, which was attended by more than 200 people, including pupils from Staffin and Kilmuir primary schools.


The Staffin Community Trust has developed projects on behalf of the community since 1994. The organisation was set up after a worrying fall in the Staffin population. The SCT’s objective is to improve Staffin’s economic prospects, stimulate social and cultural activities and improve services, with the Gaelic language an integral part of that. The SCT is now a company limited by guarantee with a board of eight directors, who all live in Staffin, and more than 60 members. www.staffin-trust.co.uk

Contact details:

Primary: Hugh Ross (SCT local development officer) 01470 562464 staffin.ldo@gmail.com

Dan Lee (UHI Archaeology Institute) 01856 569214 Daniel.Lee@uhi.ac.uk

 

Project partners:

 

 

Funders:

 

Kirkwall THI

The Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative is a two year programme of archaeological investigations in Kirkwall conservation area offering community training and memorable hands-on experiences.


This Archaeological Programme has four stages of community archaeological work and training situated in the centre of Kirkwall within the Conservation Area. A range of non-intrusive and intrusive techniques are proposed, including Archaeological Standing Building Recording, Geophysical Survey, Palaeoenvironmental Survey and Sample Excavation, which will provide opportunities for the local community to take part and learn about archaeology, enhance community understanding of our urban heritage and provide short and long term economic benefits to Kirkwall town centre.

Activities will happen over a series of weekends throughout 2015 and 2016.

Contact Daniel Lee if you want to volunteer or just want to know more about this exciting project. Click Daniel Lee and Kirkwall THI project