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!

Digging up the Past 2018 – Archaeology Workshops for Young People @ Ness of Brodgar

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Throughout the summer, if you are aged between 12 and 16, you could be part of the dig team for one morning at the world famous Ness of Brodgar archaeology dig.

The dates are as follows:

  • 24th July 2018
  • 31st July 2018
  • 7th August 2018
  • 14th August 2018

Each session starts at 9.30am and ends at 12.30pm.

You will be involved in workshops on archaeological techniques and finds….. and you will have the opportunity to dig at the world renowned Ness of Brodgar dig. This is your chance to get hands on and learn some new stuff about archaeology!

 

We advise that you wear stout boots, warm clothes, bring a water bottle or drink and waterproofs – just in case there is a passing rain shower. Lunch is not provided, so bring along a snack too. All sessions will be under the supervision of Historic Environment Scotland rangers and archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute.

There is no charge for the sessions.

These ‘Digging up the Past’ sessions are very popular so booking is essential. If you want to take part then please contact the rangers on 01856 841732 or e-mail orkneyrangers@hes.scot

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From Lincolnshire to Orkney – TJ’s journey into archaeology

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TJ and Leo, her companion dog, working in the lab

Terri-Jane (TJ to everyone) is an archaeology student with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. She starts the ‘Archaeology and Local Studies’ Course in January 2018.

TJ’s story is a success story and demonstrates that there is more than one route into archaeology. Having found her passion for the subject, TJ wanted to share her journey, and takes up the story from here ….

“As a child I wanted to become an archaeologist, but I was not encouraged to follow this route. I am dyslexic and in those days there was not the support in place to follow a university career that there is now. So I kept my interest alive by visiting our local museum, travelling to lectures and watching programmes on television.”

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TJ at the Mapping Magnus Community dig in Palace Village

“I became wheelchair dependent in 2013 and I thought that was the end of my idea of studying archaeology. But in 2016 I moved to Orkney and started an art class at Orkney College UHI and there I met Sorcha….the Highlands and Islands Students Association (HISA) Regional Vice President. Sorcha is an archaeology student, and we talked about my interest in the subject and how I wanted to be involved, but didn’t know how. Following a few more conversations, I was in the Archaeology Institute at Orkney College – talking to staff about volunteering, enrolling on the Archaeology and Local Studies course and accessing all areas! Everyone was so enthusiastic and ,Wow, the next thing I knew I was invited to the Mapping Magnus community dig at Birsay.”

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The Mapping Magnus community dig, Palace Village, Orkney

“Kath, one of the second year archaeology students, picked me up in her car and off we went to the Mapping Magnus dig at Palace Village, Birsay. I was so excited, but also a little bit nervous. I was about to take part in a real dig, researching the location of a medieval palace!

It was a beautiful sunny day and as we arrived at the dig Kath took me to the site over boards laid down for my wheelchair. Almost immediately I was at work with a trowel and sieving soil samples coming out of the dig. I was working at an archaeological dig!”

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Mapping Magnus Community Dig

“I was so excited to be taking part and within a few minutes I came across my first finds; a medieval fish bone, three animal bones and a collection of limpet shells. The team were so friendly and supported me through the whole process and, perhaps more importantly, I was treated like everyone else. My disability was not a hindrance.

I am now actively involved in the Archaeology Institute’s volunteer programme, volunteering for everything I can at the college in Kirkwall. Only last week I was in the lab washing bones from The Cairns broch and then cataloguing finds from the Orkney World Heritage Site field walking project. There is no stopping me now!”

TJ has signed up for the Archaeology and Local Studies course and starts in January and is on the volunteer list to take part in future community archaeology projects.


The Archaeology and Local Studies distance learning course is designed for people who are interested in learning more about the archaeology of the north of Scotland – from the mesolithic to the medieval and including the study of such incredible structures as brochs.

The course involves 2 hours a week taught classes for 10 weeks. Applicants for the course do not need experience of archaeology and the course can be studied as a standalone course worth 20 credits or used as an access course for studying at university level. As such it is a good opportunity to see if archaeology is for you and learn about the subject.

You can study our courses from any one of the colleges in the UHI network and that you can study MLitt Archaeological Studies from anywhere in the world.

If you would like to chat with us and explore your options at the UHI Archaeology Institute then contact Mary on 01856 569225, e-mail us at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk.  or see our website.