As the summer months edge closer you can sense the excitement in Orkney’s archaeological community – dig season is nearly upon us!
Archaeologists will soon be at locations around the islands, excavating fascinating structures and hoping to unearth more incredible insights into life in Orkney thousands of years ago.
It’s not just for experts though – everyone can get involved! There are open days, activities and workshops planned, and most sites are open to the public for the entire season too.
Here are our excavation recommendations for 2018!
The Ness of Brodgar, Stenness
This sprawling site has become one of Orkney’s most popular visitor attractions. The six-acre excavation is a special place to visit, particularly when archaeologists from around the world are hard at work, peeling back the layers of this Neolithic complex.
It sits in the heart of Orkney’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and continues to enthral the archaeological community. Every season provides more finds, more theories and more unexpected discoveries.
It’s perfect for visitors too, with daily guided tours and a viewing platform so people can see archaeologists at work. It’s a real hive of activity and a must-see during any summer holiday in Orkney.
The site is open between Wednesday 4th July and Wednesday 22nd August. Tours are available, weather permitting, Monday to Friday at 11am, 1pm and 3pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays at 11am and 3pm. Please note that at weekends diggers won’t be present on-site and it will be closed out-with tour times.
There will also be two open days this year; on Sunday, July 15th and Sunday, August 19th, with plenty of activities at the Ness and at the nearby Stenness Community School.
The Cairns, South Ronaldsay
This Iron Age site has grown to become a special part of Orkney’s archaeological landscape over recent years. Work at The Cairns has focused on a large 22-metre-wide broch, with other buildings nearby forming part of a wider settlement.
Finds in recent years have included a bronze pin, pottery, tools and even human bones. The dig is also set in a stunning location, with sweeping views over Windwick in South Ronaldsay, making it a perfect place for a day out.
Excavation work at The Cairns will run between Monday 18th June and Friday 13th July. Tours are available Monday to Friday – there are no set times but the site is open between 10.30am and 4.30pm every day.
There is also an open day planned for Friday 6th July with everyone welcome.
Cata Sand, Tresness Chambered Tomb and Loth Road Bronze Age House, Sanday
The beautiful north isle of Sanday is set to host three fascinating archaeological projects this summer. Experts will be excavating Bronze Age and Neolithic structures at Cata Sand – although the area is in an intertidal zone, so will be underwater for parts of the day!
Further along the stunning beach at Tresness is a Neolithic chambered tomb. It’s a fantastic location with huge dunes, a long sandy beach and clear water rolling in from the North Sea.
The final Sanday site will excavation work carried out at a Bronze Age house close to the island’s ferry terminal at Loth. Signposts will be in place for those interested.
All three projects will be open from the 7th of July until the 4th of August, with archaeologists on site during the week between 10.30am and 4.30pm. Members of the public are more than welcome to come along.
Swandro and Skaill Farm, Rousay
The island of Rousay is one of Orkney’s archaeological treasures. It has such a rich collection of sites, from brochs and tombs to a collection of cairns and more recent historical attractions.
One of Orkney’s main excavations is held in Rousay every summer. Swandro features a Neolithic chambered tomb, Iron Age roundhouses and Pictish buildings and can be found on the island’s southern shore, putting the entire complex at risk from coastal erosion.
The intrepid team of archaeologists will be back on site this summer between the 28th of June and the 3rd of August (although the last few days will be spent protecting the site for the winter). The dig will be open to the public between 9.30am and 4.30pm on Sundays to Thursdays and will be closed on Fridays and Saturdays. Find out more via the official website. You can also follow the dig on Facebook and Twitter.
Nearby, join archaeologists as they excavate Skaill Farm, with history stretching back as far as the Neolithic right up to the 19th century. The site will be open to the public between the 9th and 22nd of July, although it will be closed between the 14th and 17th. Workers will be on site between 9.30am and 4.30pm during the week, with an open day on the final weekend.
For more information on all the archaeology events listed above and more activities happening across Orkney this year, visit the Orkney College UHI Archaeology Institute blog. You can also follow the Institute on Facebook and Twitter.
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The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.