Orkney’s Ingrid Mainland Awarded Professorship

Professor Ingrid Mainland is an internationally recognised archaeological scientist with 30 years’ experience as an academic researcher, lecturer, and leader in her field. Based in Orkney, her research interests and expertise lie in zooarchaeology and the archaeology of food, fodder and consumption.

Ingird Mainland of Dept of Archaeology,UHI has been awarded a fellowship to research into livestock farming in Viking and Norse Orkney.

Ingrid Mainland has been awarded a professorship from the University of the Highlands and Islands in recognition of her research achievements, establishing archaeological science as part of the Archaeology Institute’s curriculum, and spearheading the growth of its masters programmes.

Professor Mainland will deliver her inaugural professorial lecture, ‘Of trough and trencher: exploring food, fodder and feasting in the past and present’, online on Thursday, October 7, at 4pm.

Professor Mainland said:

“I am tremendously pleased that my research and activities for the university have been recognised in this way.  I had to leave the islands as young person to pursue my interest in a career archaeology, despite Orkney being the home to some of the best archaeology in the world.

“The development of the University of the Highlands and Islands enabled me to come back to the islands and help establish degree-level provision in archaeology drawing on the rich resources we have in the region.”

Since joining the university in 2009, Professor Mainland has attracted significant research funding and published numerous academic papers. Recent awards include the the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the German Research Council funded ‘Looking in from the Edge’ project, a three-year collaboration between the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Universities of Vienna, Lincoln and the German Maritime Museum exploring the impact of international commercialisation on north-west Europe’s peripheral communities from 1468-1712.

In 2015 she was awarded a prestigious British Academy mid-career fellowship for research into the sustainability of farming and food production in Viking and Late Norse Scotland. She is currently collaborating on several international research projects, working with colleagues in the USA, Iceland, Canada, Norway, France and Cyprus, on different aspects of Medieval farming and food strategies in the North Atlantic islands and on sheep and goat husbandry in the Mediterranean islands.

In Orkney, her research has focused on the fauna from the Ness of Brodgar, an important Neolithic site and in Rousay, where, working with the island development trust and the local community, she is a one of the directors of excavations at the Viking to post Medieval hall and farmstead at Skaill.

Originally from Rousay, Prof Mainland left the Orkney to attend university, graduating from the University of Durham with a BA Hons in Archaeology in 1987. She was awarded her PhD from the University of Sheffield in 1995.

After lecturing at the Universities of Sheffield and Bradford, she joined the University of the Highlands and Islands in 2009, where she led the development and introduction of its undergraduate and postgraduate archaeology courses – leading to a steady growth in student numbers and presently around 100 undergraduates and 50 postgraduates.

In 2012, she was appointed curriculum leader for archaeology and went on to develop a learning environment in which students can engage in practical aspects of archaeology, and gain transferable skills, via distance delivery.

The “Virtual Labs” package, for example, enabled development of the BSc in archaeological science – a degree in which a high volume of hands-on laboratory experience is normally seen as essential. The “virtual field trip” and “field manual” have also seen the expansion of the distance-delivery MLitt archaeological studies programme.  During the COVID-19 crisis, these allowed the institute to respond very quickly to the limitations placed on face-to-face teaching. As a result, student numbers in archaeology at the university continue to be very robust, with a record intake of masters students.

An active researcher, Prof Mainland has been invited to present papers at international events, from Norway to the USA, and remains a staunch advocate for community outreach and public engagement.

Professor Todd Walker, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands said:

“The title of professor is the highest level of academic achievement which can be awarded and shines a well-deserved light on the contribution that Professor Mainland have made to developing our university’s distinctive research and curriculum.

“The University of the Highlands and Islands is proud to be locally based on the islands across our region, and with a national and international reach, it enables us to offer our students the support, options and opportunities to maximise their own learning and research potential.”

To book a place at Prof Mainland’s inaugural lecture – which will look at how the archaeology of food and fodder can be used to understand the political and social role of food in the past as well as its impact on farming economies and environments from prehistory through to the early modern period –  visit www.uhi.ac.uk/en/media/events

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