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 Community Project at Blide Trust – a great success

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The test pit in the Blide Trust garden

Last Friday and Saturday 29th & 30th June 2018, archaeologists from the University of the Highlands Archaeology Institute teamed up with members of the Blide Trust to learn more about the history of 54 Victoria Street, Kirkwall – the 18th Century HQ of the Trust.

The first day began with the digging of a test pit in the garden of the house and almost immediately the volunteer archaeologists began to unearth significant finds.

In fact the test pit was a great success with significant assemblages of pottery (modern and early post-medieval), animal bone (some with butchery marks), clay pipe and a possible gun flint were uncovered. Furthermore the team found evidence of undisturbed clay in the base of the trench. This was uneven and appeared to have been truncated, suggesting that the volunteers might have clipped a cut feature such as a pit or ditch (difficult to say conclusively in such a small trench).

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Finds being washed in the dig tent

At the lowest levels, a small piece of worked red sandstone with chisel marks and a sherd of medieval pottery were discovered suggesting medieval and early post-medieval activity on this part of the slope above the eastern side of the street.

Broadly speaking, our small trench indicates that medieval activity occurred this far south of the palace complex, situated just to the north.

Dan Lee, UHI Archaeology Institute Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist said, “Thanks to The Blide Trust for a really good couple of days last week. The set up was perfect and we have great contributions from members and lots of visitors (at least 60). The photo lab worked really well, and we followed up on some of the leads from the archive research, and photographed the building and red sandstone. Thanks for your hospitality and help.”

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The Blide Trust garden

The project continues with staff from Orkney College UHI  leading creative writing, arts and crafts sessions based on the results of the dig. It is hoped that a video will be produced and an exhibition held to explain the project and display the finds and creative work.

More can be found on the community art and archaeology project involving the UHI Archaeology Institute, Orkney College UHI and the Blide Trust by clicking here.

 

 

Skaill dig, Rousay to start 9th July 2018 – Visitors welcome

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Volunteer archaeologists at Skaill Farmstead in 2017

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have been working at Skaill since 2015 exploring the Viking, Norse and post-medieval archaeology on the Westness Estate, Rousay and this year the dig recommences on Monday 9th July.

The name Skaill suggests that the site under investigation was home to a Norse hall or drinking hall and was perhaps a high status settlement during this period.

Westness was mentioned in the Orkneyinga saga as the home of the powerful Earl Sigurd. The present farm dates from the 18th and 19th Centuries and was caught up in the story of the Rousay clearances.

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Skaill Farm

Located near to Midhowe Broch, the Site Directors, Dr Ingrid Mainland, Dr Jen Mainland and Dan Lee, welcome visitors to the excavation which aims to explore the remarkable deep time represented along the shoreline. There is no need to book and the site is child friendly…so bring along the family to explore the past at this most historic of locations.

The site is open to the public from 9th – 22nd July 2018 (note, the team will not be on-site 14-17 July) ,the site opens at 9.30am each morning and closes at around 4.30pm. Access to the site involves a walk down a steep hill from the car park for Mid Howe Broch and left (south) along the shoreline (15 min walk). The ground is uneven and the path is a little overgrown in places. Archaeologists will be working on site during the week. The Open Day will be on the final weekend 21st-22nd July.

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If we can ask that you do not access from Westness Farm. The location of the site can be found on our interactive map….

If you require any more information then please contact the UHI Archaeology Institute on studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

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.

 

Year of Young People – Summer Events in Orkney

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Workshop at Skaill Farm Open Day 2017

Each year we receive requests from young people around the world to volunteer at our summer archaeology digs in addition to the many students who work with us.

Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning & Outreach Archaeologist The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, has been working with the Orkney Community Learning and Development team to formulate an exciting archaeology programme tailored to these young people.

The calendar of events forms part of the Year of Young People programme, aimed at inspiring Scotland through its young people – celebrating their achievements and valuing their contribution to communities, and creating new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally.

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The Cairns Excavation, Windwick, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

We now have the largest number of young people volunteering at our excavations than at any time in the last ten years – whether as students from the University of the Highlands and Islands, other national and international universities, voluntary organisations, pupils from local schools or young people interested in archaeology living in Orkney and further afield.

  • 18th June – 13th July. The Cairns Excavations, Windwick, South Ronaldsay
  • 4th July – 22nd August. The Ness of Brodgar, Stenness
  • 6th July.  The Cairns Open Day
  • 7th July – 4th August. Cata Sand Excavations, Tresness and Loth Road, Sanday
  • 9th July – 22nd July. Skaill Farmstead Excavations, Westness, Rousay
  • 15th July. Ness of Brodgar Open Day
  • 21st & 22nd July. Skaill Farmstead Open Weekend, Westness, Rousay
  • 24th & 31st July. Ness of Brodgar. Digging Up The Past workshops. Booking if required for this event. Book here.
  • 7th & 14th August. Ness of Brodgar Digging Up The Past workshops. . Booking if required for this event. Book here.
  • 19th August. Ness of Brodgar Open Day

The full Orkney calendar of events is available here….

If you wish to attend any events as a young (or not so young) person then drop us a line at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

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UHI Archaeology Institute Annual Review – now online

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Annual Review is now available for download.

The document runs to 36 pages and details the staff, fieldwork, research and some of the commercial projects undertaken over the last year or so.

Download UHI Archaeology Institute Annual Review

Enjoy!