School Student Placement at UHI Archaeology Institute

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The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute works with schools across Scotland to provide work experience placements for pupils.

Last week we welcomed Cara, an S3 student from Plockton, to Orkney who immediately got to work within The Institute and….well let Cara take up the story because one of her tasks was to write a blog post……………

“My name is Cara and I’ve just completed my work experience with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute.

During the course of three amazing days, I have been able to take part in a wide variety of jobs. These included finds washing, environmental sample processing, environmental sample sorting, doing research on sites using various maps and lots of geophysics data and learning about archaeology and media as well as writing a blog post about my experience here.

DSC_0017On my first day, I was able to do some finds washing. It was very exciting to see what was underneath the layer of mud and I really enjoyed it. In amongst all the finds was a seal bone and a sheep jaw as well as many other interesting things. I really enjoyed doing this job and would love to do it again.

On the second day, I did some environmental sample processing. This was great, it was very hands on and very messy. We managed to get some good charcoal samples from it which will be helpful in finding out new facts about the site it came from. We also put the remaining stones on a tray to dry to later be sorted. Later that day I did some environmental sample sorting, this task focused on the tiny pieces of bone, charcoal and other tiny things found at the site. You basically sieve through the samples that have already been processed and pick out any pieces of bone and other interesting materials. Then you do the same with the smaller pieces until there are only stones left. I found this lots of fun and learnt a lot from the experience.

Today (Friday 2nd June) I used lots of maps and data to research an area of my choice on Orkney to see how they determine if a site is worth excavating or not. I got to see the huge amount of reports and written descriptions of sites that they have as well as all the geophysics data they use to see under the earth and determine if there is anything there worth digging for. I had a great time looking at all the data and found it all very helpful in my research.

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Cara also worked with our resident Archaeology Cat and took this photograph to post on our Twitter feed!

Finally, I got to see the media side of archaeology and how they show what they have been doing to the world. I was amazed about how many people they can reach with a single post and learnt a lot about how they can use social media such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter as well as their blog. I was able to go out and take lots of photos which are being used in this post and also got to write this article.

During the three days, I spent here I met lots of amazing people who were all willing to show me what they do and how they do it. They were all very helpful and I learnt a lot from them and my time here. I enjoyed it here so much and will love to come back and study here.”

Many thanks Cara. We look forward to seeing you very soon.


If you are interested in archaeology and want to study the subject then please contact us on studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk. We have courses from Acces, evening and field courses through undergraduate to postgraduate research options. See our guide on this blog at https://archaeologyorkney.com/courses/

Exciting New Project for Stromness-Listening to the Piers

Stromness Piers_Credit Diana Leslie

Stories, Stones and Bones: Listening to the Piers – Exploring the history of Stromness through the town piers.

The Stromness Museum celebrates £9700.00 Heritage Lottery Fund grant as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017

IMG_1907The Orkney Natural History Society Museum, Stromness, has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones grant. This exciting project, Listening to the Piers – Exploring the history of Stromness through the town piers is led by Stromness Museum in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. The programme involves organising arts and science workshops for the public and local schools and is aimed at exploring the history of Stromness through the town piers. This project is part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

The Stromness Museum is teaming up with the UHI Archaeology Institute, local artists, and marine scientists from the International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT) Orkney Campus to give the local community a chance to learn about life on and around the town’s stone-built piers, past and present. The events form part of the ‘Per Mare’ during 2017 when Stromness celebrates the 200 year anniversary of becoming a Burgh of Barony. The project will provide the opportunity for all ages of the community to explore different ways of seeing and interpreting the piers using innovative science and arts workshops held on a ‘Piers Day’ (Tuesday 25th July) during the Per Mare week (24-30th July).

The project team will work with local school children and residents to record stories,IMG_1894 memories and the history of the piers during May and June. Workshops on Piers Day will include archaeological test pit excavation on the town beaches to explore what the town threw away, sea life in the piers and intertidal zone, drawing (5-minute sketches), photography (artefacts and sea life) and time-lapse filming. Participants will learn new science and arts-based skills and help create new insights into the piers. These events are free and open to all ages.

The project will culminate in a temporary exhibition this autumn at the Stromness Museum, including artefacts, drawings, photographs and a new listening post with stories collected during the sound recording workshops.

Commenting on the award, Janette Park (Honorary Curator) said: “The museum is delighted to be able to run such a ground breaking project during such an important year as the 200th anniversary of Stromness becoming a Burgh of Barony. The piers of Stromness are a hugely important part of the shared community history of the town. The opportunity to explore and document the piers for the future will be a lasting legacy.”

Dan Lee (Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, UHI Archaeology Institute) added: “We are really looking forward to exploring these iconic piers and the history of Stromness with such exciting arts/science workshops; combined they will help us all learn about the piers and understand them in new ways”.

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Credits: Stromness Piers artwork: Diana Leslie, Photographs: UHI Archaeology.


Stories, Stones and Bones is designed 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.

The Stromness Museum is an independent museum maintained and managed by a committee of volunteers elected from the members of the Orkney Natural History Society Museum SCIO. The Stromness Museum exists to promote natural science, to preserve local history and to offer an enjoyable educational and informative experience to as large a range of people as possible. The museum contains natural and cultural history with galleries focussing upon Canada and the Arctic, maritime history and models, natural history, wartime Orkney and ethnographic material.

See their website for more information: http://www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/stromnessmuseum/index.asp


Celebrating World Heritage Day in Orkney

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney “Glowed in the ArchaeoDark” to celebrate World Heritage Day with storytelling, music and face painting.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute teamed up with DigIt2017 for the World Heritage Day event in Orkney as part of the ‘Scotland in Six’ celebrations.

Workshops were initially organised in the week prior to the event with The Orkney Youth Cafe. Everyone made the light staffs, learnt about Neolithic Orkney and face painting based on the Neolithic art from the Ness of Brodgar Site. The group also devised a dance led by Vicky Green which was enacted as a finale to the event.

DSCN0606The night was clear with just a slight threat of rain as a host of young people congregated at Skara Brae to hear traditional Orkney tales in the replica Neolithic house, paint their face (which progressed to arm painting at one point!), rehearse and enjoy refreshments in the visitor centre.

DSC_4406As the night closed in, everyone boarded the coach and set off for the Ring of Brodgar, where the participants were adorned with glow strings and asked to line up on the boardwalk leading to the stones. The torches were switched on and the long column of young people was joined by drummers to add drama to the occasion.

It looked and sounded spectacular as the dark night of the Ring of Brodgar rang with the laughter of people celebrating the day. Within a short time, a crowd had gathered, including a family who had travelled from Yorkshire to holiday in Orkney and had heard about the event from the local newspaper.

Slowly, the procession wound its way around the stones and as a finale performed a carefully choreographed performance at the entrance to the stones.

Everyone agreed that it was a magical evening in a magical location and an excellent way to celebrate World Heritage Day.

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Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology

HHA2017 Logo2017 is the year to delve into the past and discover Scotland’s fascinating stories and unique experiences. Scotland’s rich heritage, captivating history and world-renowned archaeology will come to life through a range of new and exciting experiences and events aimed at locals and visitors alike.

From World Heritage sites to ancient monuments, world-class visitor attractions and cultural traditions, Scotland offers iconic experiences and hidden gems to visitors, all year round.

Scotland’s vast history, heritage and archaeology have a fascinating story to tell and there are countless secrets to uncover at ruins, ancient monuments and remarkable archaeological sites, as well as museums and galleries across Scotland.

Each area of Scotland has its own distinctive heritage and traditions that shape its environment, as well as the lifestyle and humour of its people today. Visitors can discover this for themselves through unique events and attractions in 2017.

We are connected not just by genetics, but by our traits, our beliefs and our spirit. You will find something of yourself in Scotland, as well as a warm and welcoming people.

Visit Scotland has announced a unique event line-up for 2017 themed year: Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

For more information on the Scotland in Six events see our previous blog page and the DigIt2017 webpage.

 

Repair Work Starts at the Skibageo Hoose

DSC_0040Work has started on the repair project at the Skibageo Hoose – a boat house situated high on a cliff near the Brough of Birsay on the exposed north coast of Mainland Orkney.

The project is a continuation of the archaeological building recording completed in partnership with Birsay  Heritage Trust during 2016. This phase involves Orkney College construction students who will, as part of their building course, repair the damage caused by years of storms.

The building was constructed probably during the early twentieth century by fishermen DSC_0038from Birsay. It is not recorded on the 1900 revised O.S. sheet and was used up to the late nineteen sixties when commercial fishing ceased in the geo.

After falling into disrepair, a project by the local school in 1989 restored the building to a functional state enabling its use as a shelter, a place to rest and a point of interest. The present description “Fishermans Hut” was never used locally to describe this building in the past and only appeared after the upgrading by the school. It was always known as the Skibageo Hoose or the Hoose at the Geo.

DSC_10035Dry built random rubble walls consisting of land stone and beach stone on top of an excavation into clay and rock of probably an old boat house (noust). The east end is built almost entirely of stone and incorporates the doorway. The west end consists of little more than a gable with a small opening in the stonework to allow spars, rods, etc., to be stored in the roof space. A stone facing extends almost to floor level internally.  The roof on the north side is supported off the stonework whilst the south side is supported on a heavy wall plate on vertical wooden props. Seven timber couples with purlins incorporating some driftwood, support the roof covering of flagstone and turf. The floor is of beaten clay and of an internal size of approximately 4.4m x 2.5m. The building is sited approximately in a north-south direction, the doorway being on the east elevation.

Archaeological building recording and measured survey of the neighbouring nousts was undertaken during 2016 by a team from the Archaeology Institute and local volunteers. This produced a drawn, written and photographic record of the Hoose prior to the proposed renovations. This formed part of a wider programme of building survey in the Palace village area and making a 3D model of the Birsay whale bone.

The current repair work involved is considerable and includes the following:

  • Strip back turf and flagstone to both gables to allow access to stonework as required.
  • Take down West gable to ground level and set aside for reuse.
  • Take down East gable to below the level of the door lintel at the South side of the doorway and set aside for reuse.
  • Build in area of missing stone to lower South side of doorway to match existing
  • Consolidate or replace loose or missing stones to inside walling as required.
  • Rebuild both gables using existing stone, to profile as before.
  • West gable opening to be retained.
  • West gable may require the formation of a suitable foundation.
  • Build in stone lintel over the doorway.
  • Core of stonework to be reinforced with clean beach sand/cement mix.
  • Top stones of gables to be solidly bedded with bedding kept well back.
  • Replace flagstone and turf to roof making good to gables and existing roofing

When complete, the Hoose will provide a safe and secure haven for walkers who find themselves caught in one of the squalls that frequent this coast.


The Big Day Out

The Archaeology Institute UHI organised a “Big Day Out” for the whole of Kirkwall Grammar School S1 (125 pupils) visited the World Heritage main sites for the day on the 12th May 2015.

Events were held at the main sites with a number of 20min workshops at each:

  • Ring of Brodgar (walkover survey/GPS mapping, geophysics, field recording the stones)
  • Skara Brae (Bones workshops – IM, Easter Island filming and interviews)

The event was a great success as the students engaged with the environment and the methods involved with archaeology. Due to this success the event is pencilled in for next year !