Archaeologists for a Day – School Children help out at Mapping Magnus Dig

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Over the past couple of weeks, the University of the Highlands and Islands team at the Mapping Magnus excavation have involved local school children in the exciting excavations at Palace Village, Birsay, Orkney.

On 2nd to 4th October, children and teachers from Dounby Primary School, Stenness Primary School, Stromness Primary School, Evie Primary School, Firth Primary School and the Pathways to Independence Group were involved in an archaeology day at the site – building on work that they had completed in the classroom in the previous week.

The budding archaeologists arrived early on site at Palace Village, Birsay, Orkney and were keen and ready to get started. The weather tried its best to intervene, but the children were well wrapped up and enthusiastically looked forward to the first task.

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This involved the children in a decision making exercise in which they searched for any existing clues in Palace Village that may help us as archaeologists narrow down the potential site of the medieval Bishop’s Palace. The children set off looking for sandstone blocks and other features that could have originated in the old medieval palace in the walls of the present settlement.

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After exploring the area our volunteers then began examining some of the drawings and maps of the Palace Village alongside Dr Sarah-Jane Gibbon, Lecturer in  Archaeology at UHI Archaeology Institute, and Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist at UHI Archaeology Institute, to identify any clues that may help us identify the position of the old medieval palace. This exercise was completed in the The Orkney Archaeology Society trailer which provided welcome refuge against particularly heavy rain showers….many thanks to OAS who helped make this happen.

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After exploring the area and studying the documented evidence, our helpers headed to the main trench. The children were split into teams who then started washing some of the finds that had come out of our trenches, sieving deposits, excavating in the main trench and working in the smaller test pits. The teams rotated around, giving each child experience of the different aspects of field archaeology.

The day itself was very enjoyable and the team want to shout out a big thank you to all of our volunteers from Dounby Primary School, Stenness Primary School, Stromness Primary School, Evie Primary School, Firth Primary School and to the Pathways to Independence Group. Your hard work was greatly appreciated by the team and hope to see you at another excavation in the future.

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If you would also like to be part of the Mapping Magnus Community Archaeology Project then please contact us at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk . Future activities include geophysical survey and walkover survey at Manse Stone sites and noust survey at Marwick.

Thanks to Charlotte Hunter for contributing to the blog post and photographs. Charlotte is a MSc student at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and is on professional placement with us, helping with the communication of archaeology across the media.

Get involved in the conversation #MappingMagnus


The Mapping Magnus project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Orkney Islands council and the UHI Archaeology Institute as part of Magnus 900, commemorating the 900th anniversary year of the death of St Magnus during 2017.

 

Mapping Magnus Dig Update 4/10

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The team from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and local community volunteers are now beginning to bring the Mapping Magnus dig in Palace Village to a close.

Everyone involved, from school children to local residents to students from UHI Archaeology Institute and volunteers from further afield, have all said how successful the dig has been and how it was so good to be involved in community research.

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The weather over the past week has been furious with several gales tracking over the exposed coastal site – but despite the weather the enthusiasm of everyone involved has carried the team through.

Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist at the UHI Archaeology Institute, takes up the story…

“We’ve found medieval middens and structures in most trenches. The schools outreach was very successful despite the weather! Many thanks to those of you who have helped out during the excavations. We have one last push tomorrow with backfilling the main trench, so any extra help would be much appreciated, even for just an hour or so. Chris Gee and the team will be there from 9am.”

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There are a few more activities to come on the project, such as geophysical survey and walkover survey at Manse Stone sites, and noust survey at Marwick. so we will keep you posted if you wish to be involved.

Please do lend a hand backfilling tomorrow if you can. There will be lifts available from Orkney College at 8am as usual. No need to book, just turn up.


The Mapping Magnus project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Orkney Islands Council and the UHI Archaeology Institute as part of Magnus 900, commemorating the 900th anniversary year of the death of St Magnus during 2017.

 

Second Phase of Caithness Broch Festival to Commence

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Get Involved in Community Archaeology exploring Iron Age Caithness!

  • Trial trenches Bruan Broch 13 & 14 October 2017
  • Trial trenches Thing’s Va Broch 15 & 16 October 2017

The initial results are now in from the geophysics survey completed at Bruan Broch and Thing’s Va Broch in Caithness by archaeologists from Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, Caithness Broch Project and local community volunteers….and they show some very interesting findings which need further investigation.

Bruan Broch Geophysics AnnotatedThe geophysics results from Bruan Broch indicate a possible settlement to the southwest of the structure itself which, although it is not possible to date from geophysical data alone, could be contemporary with the broch. The settlement may even be a late Iron Age settlement known as a ‘wag’, which are often associated with former broch sites. The magnetometer survey also highlighted further anomalies, which may represent a continuation of the settlement to the south and east.

Following these exciting results, the team are undertaking trial-trenches at Bruan on 13 & 14 October to which the community are invited to visit and get involved.

Geophysics Things Va Annotated

The geophysics data from Thing’s Va Broch presented the team with a mystery; there are hints of features to the northeast of the broch that may represent structures that could be a Late Iron Age ‘wag’, but there is little of the magnetic enhancement that is usually associated with a broch. It is possible that these faint features relate to activity associated with the later role of the site referred to in its place name. The ‘Thing’s’ element to the site name indicates that it was used in the Norse period as a meeting place.

Furthermore, the data also showed an anomaly to the northeast of the broch which could represent a burnt mound. A cairn to the south may also be a burnt mound, but could be a substantial roundhouse of Late Iron Age date.

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Geophysics at Bruan Broch

The team decided that only a series of trial-trenches could help explain the activity at the Thing’s Va site. The archaeological excavations will commence on 15 October and end the following day, 16 October. Once again, the community is invited to get involved and will be made most welcome.

If you are interested in getting involved with this exciting series of archaeological digs then contact the team on studyarchaeoology@uhi.ac.uk or 01856 569225

Caithness Broch Festival Trial Trenching V4

For more information on the Caithness Broch Festival then see our previous blog post.


The community archaeology project is funded from the Tannach & District Wind Farm Charitable Trust Fund supported by Foundation Scotland, Bailie Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund and the Caithness and North Sutherland Fund.

Open Day at Mapping Magnus Dig

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A team of archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute together with volunteers from the local community will be holding an Open Day at the Palace Village dig, Birsay on Saturday 30th September 2017.

All are welcome and the event is free to enter. One of the questions we are asked by potential visitors to our Open Days is, “Can I bring my children?” Children of all ages are welcome and there will be opportunities for them to look at and take part in some of the activities on site.

The Open Day starts at 10am and is planned to end around 3pm to allow the team to clean the area for the next day. There will be signs directing you to the dig site on the day from the Palace Stores.

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There is no need to book…just turn up and discuss the progress of the dig with the team. Already a substantial wall has been unearthed as the trial trenches take shape….who knows what will be discovered on the Open Day itself?

Contact: studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk or 01856 569225 for further information.

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The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute has been commissioned by Orkney Islands Council to deliver a programme of community archaeology activities and events that will explore the story of St Magnus and medieval Orkney.

The Mapping Magnus project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of Magnus 900, commemorating the 900th anniversary year of the death of St Magnus during 2017.

 

Mapping Magnus Community Excavation – Palace Village, Birsay

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The hunt for medieval structures continues in Palace Village, Birsay Orkney.

A team from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute together with community volunteers will commence the excavation phase of the exciting community archaeology ‘Mapping Magnus’ project by digging test pits around the medieval site of the Bishops Palace.

The dig begins on the 25th September and continues for two weeks until 6 October 2017 and visitors are most welcome to view the excavations as they happen and discuss the progress with the team as they continue to investigate medieval Palace Village. The digs commence at 9am and finish at 5pm each day.

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You can join the team by contacting UHI Archaeology Institute’s Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, Dan Lee at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk – no previous archaeological experience is necessary as training will be given, but please contact us as places are now limited. Volunteers meet at Palace village car park opposite the kirk.

There will also be an Open Day on 30th September in which visitors can view the progress and discuss the results with the archaeologists.

Join the conversation #MappingMagnus #Magnus900

Background to the Mapping Magnus Project

20170604_155155The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute has been commissioned by Orkney Islands Council to deliver a programme of community archaeology activities and events that will explore the story of St Magnus and medieval Orkney.

The Mapping Magnus project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of Magnus 900, commemorating the 900th anniversary year of the death of St Magnus during 2017.

Based around the central themes of the Mapping Magnus project – Movement & Pilgrimage, Religion & Power, Stones & Bones – activities include archive research, storytelling and collecting, geophysical survey, walkover survey, excavation, coastal survey, a noust survey and community and schools workshops. Fieldwork activities are focussed in Palace village and the surrounding area of Birsay. Other key places within the story, such as the site of Magnus’ Martyrdom on Egilsay and the Mansie Stane sites where his body was rested during transit will be included.

All activities will involve training and hands-on experiences for the local community and schools, and local volunteers are encouraged to get involved.


Supported by:

 

UHI Archaeology Institute & Designer Collaboration

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This autumn, Kirsteen Stewart will launch her new collection working in collaboration with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute.

Orcadian designer Kirsteen Stewart began working with Outreach & Lifelong Learning Archaeologist Dan Lee in 2016 using GPS mapping equipment to track favourite coastal walks and well-trodden routes throughout Orkney. These mappings created line drawings, which Kirsteen then shaped and combined with elemental colour palettes to great a range of fabrics to use in collections of clothing and accessories.

Commenting on the collection Kirsteen said ‘Orkney is a place of history and heritage, great natural beauty and wild weather.  But we want to introduce you to another side of these memorable islands.  The beauty and inspiration that is everyday life, reworked to create something new and fresh’

Designer Kirsteen Stewart currently stocks her products in the UK, Europe and Japan. You can contact her for more details through social media and her e-mail address. The Collection Launch Date is 1st September 2017. More information about this collection is available at:

Community Archaeology – Palace Village, Birsay

20170527_134825The second phase of the exciting community archaeology and training project, Mapping Magnus, begins on the 25th and 26th August 2017.

Local volunteers are invited to team up  with archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute to complete an archaeological survey in Palace Village, Birsay.

We will be meeting at Palace Village, Birsay car park opposite the Kirk at 10am, everyone is welcome to join the survey, mapping and recording…whether you have archaeological experience or not!

The area around Birsay is closely linked with the story of St Magnus and this project will give volunteers the opportunity to learn surveying and mapping techniques and add to the archaeological record relating to the Magnus story.

The Mapping Magnus project involves a whole series of archaeological events in August and September 2017 (see poster below).

So….. if you want to get involved and find out more about the archaeology of St Magnus then contact the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk or 01856 569229

Community Archaeology Mapping Magnus Ad


This project is supported by: