Project Update: Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre, Land and Sea

20170613_164533_LRWork at Skaill farmstead, Westness, Rousay, got underway last week with some building survey, walkover survey and a workshop with the Rousay Community School.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute were joined by the Historic Environment Scotland (HES) survey team to record the remains of the buildings at Skaill farmstead and The Wirk (Norse tower). This is the first phase of the Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Land and Sea: Exploring Island Heritage, Past and Present project – a summer of activities and reaearch.

20170613_162201_LRThe HES team produced accurate scaled drawings of the buildings (plans and sections) using a plane table and alidade – a basic but very effective survey method which results in highly accurate scale drawings. At Skaill farmstead, these included features such as the fireplaces, doorways, blocking, alcoves and shelves allowing the different phases of construction to be identified. The house was extended four times to the north as the farm expanded during the 18th and 19th centuries. In the barn, the beautiful corn drying kiln was recorded along with a flue, a grain store, winnowing doors and vents. A dairy was identified at the northern end of the house.

Walkover survey was started around the farmstead with the help of volunteers. Features such as the stone walled enclosures, and earthworks such as banks and terraces were recorded. These sites were mapped with a handheld GPS and help to place the farm buildings into a wider context. An earlier phase of enclosure, perhaps and early hill dyke, was walked on the steep slope above the road.

Ten pupils from the Rousay Community School had a day of activities during the week. This started with a class-based workshop about what archaeologists do, how we know where to look, what we find and what this can tell us. They looked at finds and thought about what you might expect to find below the ground, especially in a farm mound such as that at Skaill, and above the ground in terms of built heritage.

20170615_125740_LR

The class then visited Skaill farmstead and after a picnic lunch found out about building recording and photography from the HES team. Pupils traced from the geophysics plot of the farm and we looked at what we could see on the ground. They finished by drawing their own plans of the farm buildings. The weather was kind and a good day was had by all.

We look forward to starting the excavations at Skaill and Swandro next month!

The project has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones grant and additional funding from the Orkney Islands Council Archaeology Fund.

20170615_145506_LR

Dates for the diary:

  • 10-23 July: Excavations at Skaill farm. Test pit weekend/open days 22-23 July. Volunteers and visitors welcome.
  • 3-28 July: Excavations at Swandro coastally eroding site. details available soon.

Volunteers welcome! Please get in touch if you want to take part in the fieldwork at Skaill.

Contact The Archaeology Institute for details on how to take part: studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk tel: 01856 569225


 

Community Archaeology and Open Day in Rousay

594_B3_049

The first phase of the community archaeology project – Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Land and Sea: Exploring Island Heritage, Past and Present – will be commencing on the 13th June and continuing until 16th June 2017.

This phase of the project includes archaeological building recording by the Historic Environment Scotland survey team and walkover survey with the UHI Archaeology Institute at Skaill farmstead, Westness, Rousay, on the shores of  Eynhallow Sound. The built remains of the 18th-centry farmstead will be recorded.

IMG_0992Come and join the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Historic Environment Scotland team to survey the intriguing remains at Skaill farmstead.

There are still two places available for anyone who is interested in buildings archaeology and would like to take part in the survey on  14th and 16th June. Volunteers don’t need any experience of archaeology as training in basic survey techniques will be provided.  Contact Dan Lee at studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk to book a place.

The project will continue on 15th June with the team holding a workshop at Rousay School in the morning and a site visit in the afternoon.

The full programme culminates at Skaill farmstead in an open afternoon on Friday 16th June where visitors will be invited to meet the team, see the results of the work and try some practical activities. All welcome!

This is the first event in a series of community archaeology events on Rousay this summer. Watch out for excavations at Skaill 10-23 July.

   

 

New Project on Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre Awarded Funding

20160705_120034(0)Stories, Stones and Bones: Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Land and Sea – Exploring Island Heritage, Past and Present.

Rousay Heritage Trust celebrates £7800.00 Heritage Lottery Fund grant as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017

Rousay Heritage Trust has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones grant. This exciting project, Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Land and Sea – Exploring Island Heritage, Past and Present, in Rousay, Orkney,  led by the Rousay Heritage Trust in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Archaeology Institute and the University of Bradford, has been given £7800.00 to run a programme of archaeology themed events during 2017.

20160707_152631These are to be centred around the archaeological excavations at Swandro and Skaill, on the western coast of Rousay, and on the Viking and Norse periods. This project is part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

The project will provide a programme of hands-on and memorable experiences for a range of ages within the island community will complement the wider St Magnus 900 year commemorations and will focus more fully on the archaeology and history of Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre in the Viking / Norse period.

Project events include a Viking themed boat flotilla with guided trips around Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre looking at the Viking and Norse sites and their history. Members of the community can learn skills in archaeology during test pit excavations at Skaill, surveying a Viking house at Swandro, experimental archaeology workshops and more. These activities link in with the ongoing archaeological investigations by the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and the University of Bradford researching long-term change along the Westness coast. The project culminates in the production of a new free booklet for all Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre residents containing useful information about the islands, their heritage and archaeology and the results from the summer’s activities.

Poster Building Recording.ai

Commenting on the award, Bryan Milner (Chair of Rousay Heritage Trust) said: “ We are662_B1_022 delighted that our Summer of Arts and Sport in recent years are now to be followed by a Summer of History.  This is especially appropriate because not only are Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre rich in archaeological sites but also because Egilsay is where Magnus was martyred 900 years ago”.

Dan Lee (Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, UHI Archaeology Institute) added: “we are thrilled to be part of such wide-ranging and exciting events centred upon the remarkable archaeology of Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre in the St Magnus 900th commemorative year”.

IMG_0985
The abandoned kirk at Skaill, Rousay

Rousay Heritage Trust is a charity with the main objectives of the advancement of the education of the public in the history, culture, natural history and any other features of life in the island of Rousay, Orkney and the preservation for the public benefit of the historical, cultural and natural heritage of Rousay and of its sister  islands, Egilsay and Wyre. Contact: Helen Castle helen@rewdt.org 01856 821229

Stories, Stones and Bones is for any not-for-profit group wanting to engage more people with the heritage and take part in the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Stories, Stones and Bones grants between £3,000 and £10,000 are available to groups who want to discover their local heritage. Projects can cover a wide spectrum of subject matter from exploring local archaeology and a community’s cultures and traditions to identifying and recording local wildlife and protecting the surrounding environment to managing and training volunteers, and holding festivals and events to commemorate the past.

Heritage Lottery Fund. Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.  www.hlf.org.uk  Follow us on Facebook Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland and twitter @HLFScotland. Use the hashtags #HLFScotland and #HHA2017 to be part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

Coastal Erosion and Heritage in Orkney- New Trust Launched

img_1004

Whenever the weather forecast is on the TV, my eyes always drift to the top of the map. This, I suppose, is natural as I live with my family in Orkney and the weather decides how we live our life that day.

The forecast for the end of this week (w/e 13th January 2017) looks interesting – a severe weather warning involving high winds and snow showers.

However, the combined power of the wind, rain and the action of the sea is also more than a way of life in Orkney, it is affecting the very existence of many heritage sites in the archipelago. It is well known that Orkney possesses amazing world-class sites, but the area has also been identified as an area that experiences some of the worst coastal erosion issues in Scotland.

Coastal erosion combined with climate change is, of course, an international issue and it is heartening to see that Historic Environment Scotland has recognised the problem as recently reported by BBC News.

archaeology-on-the-edgeIn the light of the issue, the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute in partnership with staff from the University of Bradford, The City University of New York, The William Paterson University of New Jersey, Orkney Islands Council and REW Development Trust have created the Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust. The trust is aimed at providing resources for the continued work at Swandro-a priority archaeological site that is in imminent danger of destruction from coastal erosion.

 

Click through to the Swandro-Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust website and blog for more details.

celebrating-the-launch-of-the-swandro-orkney-coastal-archaeology-trust-page-001

 

Finding the Vikings-Skaill Dig Update

Amended map2a

The international dig on Rousay is now beginning to uncover finds. Test pits have been opened around the 18th Century farmstead at Skaill to investigate the underlying Viking farm.

Test Pit 1: This is in effect an extended trench from last year. A double skinned wall of Norse date has been discovered together with deposits of pottery, steatite and large cod fish bones. It would appear that this wall had been dismantled and overlain by two additional phases of wall, on which the current surviving farmstead was built.

Test Pit 2: This pit unearthed the external wall and inetrnal floor of a dismantled farmhouse with a corn drying kiln. This is depicted on an old estate plan and now survives as an earthwork.

Test Pit 3: This pit exposed the top of a stony bank that is likely to be Norse in age.

Test Pit 4: This pit was located to the west of the double skinned wall of pit 1. Vitrified fuel ash, fish bone and possible structural remains emerged in this pit.

The main trenches have been left open for visitors to examine.

The Kids Archaeology Summer Club day last Thursday was very successful with 16 children helping with the digging, drawing,finds washing and interpretation of the artefacts.

20160707_142626

The Kids Archaeology Summer club is continuing Thursday 14th July and Thursday 21st July. All are welcome and it is FREE to join in.

Swandro digs-page-001

Rousay Dig Update

The archaeological digs on Rousay are progressing apace now that the Orkney summer has arrived in earnest. Local people have taken the opportunity to work on the sites and there are still places available for anyone who wants to experience a hands on archaeological dig.

 

Skaill Farmstead

The first day at the farmstead began with excavating the pit from last year down to the Viking wall that had previously been uncovered. Once the wall was reached, the trench was stepped out in order to uncover more of the wall. In addition to this, we began to use geophysics to uncover more of the structures shown on the survey. The first of the pits has been dug adjacent to the corn drying kiln. This revealed a wall face and an orthosats possibly used for dividing the interior of the building. Further test pits were planned for later in the week to explore the other features shown on the geophysics.

During the second day, samples were taken of the soil in the trench near the farmstead. The second trench was mapped and left open for the public to view. Test pit three was started and will be continued by our yound volunteers on Thursday. The best finds of the day were two bone buttons in excellent condition. Other deposits of bone and pottery were also uncovered. Hopefully the rest of the Viking wall will be uncovered over the next few days.Buttons

Swandro

The first day began with cleaning the storm beach back and strimming the grass back. During day 2, further clearing back was undertaken, the tarpaulins from last year’s dig was removed. The international team has now started to excavate the site and we are all looking forward to gain more insight into this heavily eroding site.


There are still places available over the next month to take part in these digs. There is no charge and you will receive training in basic archaeology techniques. There is a Kid’s Archaeology Club running too. See the poster below…..Swandro digs-page-001

Rousay excavations at Swandro and Skaill starting this week!

Outreach poster

Investigations at Westness, Rousay start this week

Lots of opportunities to get involved, from workshops, kids summer club, volunteering on site and placement training.

Two Excavations along the Westness shore start this week: at the coastally eroding site at Swandro and Viking Farmstead at Skaill, Westness, Rousay, start next week. Combined, these aim to investigate the deep history of this fascinating stretch of coast.

Swandro excavations: 4-29 July – Local volunteer opportunities. Two 2 week placements for local residents available for mid to late July. Help us excavate this Neolithic to Viking aged site that is being eroded by the sea. Project details and reports here.

Skaill farmstead excavations: 4-8th July – Local volunteers welcome. Help us excavate some test trenches to investiagte the Viking farmstead below the current ruined farm buildings.

Contact Sean Page for details 01856 569229 sean.page@uhi.ac.uk