UHI Archaeology Institute Looks Ahead

Three new Visiting Professors have been appointed to the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

The Archaeology Institute which is based in Orkney has welcomed into its ranks:

  • Professor Astrid Ogilvie (Senior Scientist, Stefansson Arctic Institute, University of Akuyeri/University of Colarado)
  • Professor Leslie King (Professor in Environment and Sustainability, Royal Roads University, Vancouver Island)
  • Professor Mark Edmonds (Emeritus Professor in Archaeology, University of York
  • Visiting Readers –Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark (Curator of Prehistory, National Museums Scotland)
  • Dr Gerry Bigelow (Associate Professor in History, Bates College, Maine)
UHI Archaeology Institute Visiting Reader Dr Gerry Bigelow. Photo: Dr Gerry Bigelow

UHI Archaeology Institute Visiting Reader Dr Gerry Bigelow. Photo: Dr Gerry Bigelow

They will join the  existing Visiting Reader Olwyn Owen, an established Viking scholar who excavated at Tuquoy on Westray.

Research specialisms include the archaeology of the North Atlantic, sustainability and the impact of climate change, past and present in Northern communities, Viking and Norse archaeology and Neolithic Europe.

These appointments offer an unprecedented pool of expertise for students and researchers as well as strengthening connections and collaborations with universities and other institutions in Canada, the US, Iceland and Scotland.

Skaill Rousay

Skaill Farmstead looking towards St Marys Kirk and Midhowe Broch. Photo: Bobby Friel @Takethehighview

Researchers at the UHI Archaeology Institute have a fast-growing reputation for their studies of the impacts of climate change and sustainability.

Viking Drinking Hall Rousay

Skaill Norse Hall below the present farmstead. Photo: UHI Archaeology Institute

The excavation of the Viking hall and landscape at Skaill on Rousay, directed by Dr Ingrid Mainland, is part of the Orkney climate and environmental change research which has recently gained official recognition from UNESCO’s sustainable science initiative ‘BRIDGES’ :- world-wide recognition of the achievements of the team at the site and collaborators from Bradford University and in the wider North Atlantic.

Norse hall Rousay

Skaill Norse Hall showing the northern outer wall. Photo UHI Archaeology Institute

Additionally, Professor Jane Downes continues her research on climate change and heritage in the international Heritage on the Edge project which has now been launched by Google Arts and Culture https://artsandculture.google.com/project/heritage-on-the-edge

Funding Challenges and Successes

Like many universities, there are always challenges with funding.

Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) is based at Orkney College UHI.

Orkney College

UHI Orkney College Campus

The strong and developing client base established by Pete Higgins, Senior Project Manager, has yielded excellent commercial archaeology work associated with infrastructure and energy developments over the past year and the unit has come in on budget. The unit faces challenges as the usual business environment adapts to the social distancing guidelines, and the team are looking forward to the time when they can once again return to the field.

Pete Higgins, ORCA Archaeology Senior Project Manager, points out archaeological sites visible from the cist location

Pete Higgins, ORCA Archaeology Senior Project Manager, points out archaeological sites visible from the cist location

The Impact on Orkney’s Local Economy

Interesting results from a new independent study have shown that Orkney College UHI Archaeology Institute’s activities generate substantial expenditure in the Orkney economy.

For the year 2019-20 the local economy has benefited by over £2million from the spending power of the 54 students studying Archaeology at Orkney College UHI, the Institute’s visiting academics,volunteers and students and tourist visitors to the Ness of Brodgar to whom the site was critical in their decision to visit Orkney.

It also supports 79 full time equivalent jobs (including the 25 full time equivalent staff of the Archaeology Institute).

The study has found that:

‘The Institute has played a substantial role in increasing the profile of both archaeology in Orkney and Orkney as a place for tourists to visit’.

HMS Pheasant- Multibeam Echosound Image. Copyright ORCA

HMS Pheasant- Multibeam Echosound Image. Copyright ORCA

UHI Archaeology Institute Director Professor Jane Downes said:

“The Institute has also attracted substantial investment into Orkney through the winning of major academic research grants – the latest award of over £700,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

“This together with the successful entrepreneurial activity of Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology has resulted in over 100 commercial projects worth hundreds of thousands of pounds of contracts being placed within Orkney.

“Furthermore the UHI’s leading archaeology and research excavation at the Ness of Brodgar is now firmly established as one of Orkney’s prime visitor attractions with over 18,000 people visiting during the short 7 week period the site is open to visitors each year.”

Ness of Brodgar Bell 7

Ness of Brodgar Excavations Credit Bell

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute is looking forward to building on this success in the future and attract ever more direct and indirect investment to Orkney – harnessing the innovative, entrepreneurial and creative flair of the staff and students both in Orkney and across the world.

The Cairns Broch Bell

Excavations at The Cairns Broch site credit: Bell



Leave a Reply