Mapping Magnus Dates for the Diary 2

20170826_151839Upcoming activities in the Palace village area of Birsay for September & October 2017 (updated).

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): studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

Phone 01856 569225

P1170026-1

Next Workshop is:

Archive research training. 1 & 2 Sept

What? Research the history & archaeology of Birsay with Dr Sarah-Jane Gibbon in the Orkney Library and Archive. No previous experience required, training in archive reaesrch will be provided. Contribute original research to the project.

Where? Meet at Orkney Archives Room (upstairs), Kirkwall Library, Junction Road.

When? 10am – 3pm. Please contact us to book for the full days, but you are welcome to drop in for a visit.

Coastal Survey. 6, 7 & 8 Sept

What? Record the coastally eroding sites from Palace village to the point of Buckquoy area with archaeologist Dave Reay. Numerous sites from prehistoric settlement, Viking Norse remains to more recent boat nousts were recorded in the 1970s and 1980s during the Birsay Bay Project. The remains of these sites will be identified and their current condition recorded (photographic and written record). No previous experience required, training will be provided.

Where? Meet at Point of Buckquoy, Brough of Birsay car park, Birsay.

When? 10am – 3pm. Booking essential.

Geophysical Survey. 12, 13 & 14 Sept

What? Help the team survey small areas in the village using Earth Resistance and Magnetometry techniques. Understand the process of geophsyical survey and its applciation in archaeology. Help put the key site in Palace Village, Birsay, into a wider context. No previous experience required, training will be provided.

Where? Meet at Palace village car park, opposite the kirk.

When? 10am – 3pm. Booking essential.

Archive Research drop-in day. 23 Sept

What? Come and visit Dr Sarah-Jane Gibbon and the archive reaearch group in the Orkney Library and Archive to look at their research into the history & archaeology of Birsay and Palace village for the project.

Where? Meet at Orkney Archives Room (upstairs), Kirkwall Library

When? 11am – 3pm. No need to book, just drop in anytime!

Village excavations. 25 Sept – 6 Oct (2 weeks)

What? Help the Archaeology Institute team dig test pits in Palace Village around the medieval site of the Bishops Palace. Join in for a day or whatever you can manage. No previous experience required, training will be provided.

Dig open day on Saturday the 30th September.

Where? Meet at Palace village car park opposite kirk. Booking essential.

When? 10am – 4pm each day

Please note: Booking is essential for all activities.

A Summer of Archaeology in Rousay

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Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Land and Sea: Exploring Island Heritage, Past and Present.

Dan Lee, Dr Ingrid Mainland, Dr Jen Harland and Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute together with a team of local volunteers and school children embarked on a programme of archaeology in Rousay, Orkney over the summer 2017.

Rousay’s Summer of Archaeology culminated in a host of activities along the west shore during July. Excavations were carried out at the coastally eroding site at Swandro (by a team from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute & University of Bradford) and at Skaill farmstead.

Together, the work at these sites aims to explore the remarkable deep time represented along the west shore; from the Neolithic, Iron Age, Pictish, Viking and Norse periods to the 19th century clearances. Work at these sites framed a series of community activities and workshops including test pit excavation at Skaill, training placements for Rousay residents, metalworking workshop, bones and environmental workshop, experimental archaeology, and open days at the two excavations. Over the month, the sites received hundreds of visitors, from Rousay and all over the world.

Chrissie and her test pit containing Norse midden

Excavations at Skaill farmstead were undertaken within the middle two weeks of July. The results of the geophysical survey in 2015 showed potential earlier features below the present 18/19th century farmstead. Subsequent test pits in 2016 identified several earlier structural phases below the farmhouse, including a wall with two outer stone faces and midden core, which is likely to date to the Norse period. The site represents a small ‘farm mound’ where successive phases of building, levelling and rebuilding give rise to a low mound.

The aim this season was to establish the extent and character of the farm mound, and the depth, quality and date of any deposits and structures in order to better understand the site for more detailed investigation. A line of 1m by 1m test pits at 10m intervals were excavated in two transects across the mound. The natural underlying glacial till was located at the northern, western and southern edges of the mound helping us to define the extent of surviving archaeology.

Ornate moulded red sandstone

In the centre of the mound, deep stratified deposits were found. These are likely to be over 2m in depth. Post-medieval deposits were found to overlay a distinctive Norse horizon. Norse pottery, fish bone, shell midden and elaborate red sandstone mouldings were found in the earlier horizons. The moulded red sandstone is significant, indicating high status buildings in the area during the late medieval period, and may help provide insights into the ornate red sandstone fragments nearby at The Wirk and on Eynhallow. Evidence for metal working, in the form of iron slag, has also been recovered from Skaill. Significant assemblages of animal bone, fish bone and pottery from the 17-19th centuries were also recovered. These will help us understand farming and fishing practices during the last few hundred years.

Planning the remains of the barn in Trench 2

To the north of the farmhouse, a small trench across a former 19th century barn was reopened and extended, showing the external wall footings and internal flagged floor. The building was demolished between 1840 and 1882 during a time when the farmstead was cleared and ceased to operate. In addition, a small evaluation trench across a suspected field boundary to the south of the barn was reopened from last season and completed. This contained a stone-lined drain and midden enhanced soil, indicating that earlier buried structures could be widespread at the site. Indeed, all of the earthworks that fell within one of the test pits contained structural remains such as walls.

Visitors!

Over the two weeks, Skaill received nearly 150 visitors, with 70 visitors over the test pit weekend. Several local children helping dig the test pits. Overall the season was a great success; helping raise the profile of the island, opening up the site to so many folk and increasing our understanding of the Skaill and Westness story.

The project has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones grant and additional funding form the OIC Archaeology Fund.

        

 

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: