ORCA Archaeology is pleased to announce that they have been commissioned by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) to commence archaeology excavation at the site of the proposed new sub-station at Finstown.
Orkney is recognised to be at the forefront of the rapidly expanding renewable sector in the UK. The proposed Finstown Substation will form part of the multi-million pound Orkney Transmission Connection and Infrastructure project which aims to reinforce the electricity transmission connection between the renewable energy providers on the islands and the mainland of Scotland.
The planned archaeology work at the proposed substation site will involve a programme of excavation, which will investigate anomalies identified through earlier surveys conducted by ORCA Archaeology.
Magnetometer (geophysical) surveys revealed several areas of archaeological interest (Figure 1 below), which were subsequently investigated by trial trenching. Interestingly the large anomaly shown at 8 in Figure 2 has been interpreted as a lightning strike rather than archaeology, but looks pretty spectacular in any event!
The sub-station site sits in an area of low glacial mounds laid to pasture, at the foot of Hill of Heddle. An old road or track formerly ran through it along the present field boundary angling NE from Stymilders, which itself was the site of a 19th century school. The field boundary is shown in Figure 2 below.
The trial trenching found extensive deposits of ‘midden’ - material containing debris from human occupation - and several stone structures, probably dating from the Bronze Age (about 2000BC to 800BC in Orkney) near Stymilders and the Neolithic (4000BC to c. 2000BC) in the eastern field, (feature 7 in Figure 2 above).
The current excavation follows on from this previous work and targets the known areas of archaeological potential. The ORCA Archaeology team will open a series of large trenches as shown in Figure 3 below, take samples of the midden material, investigate and record the structures present.
Pete Higgins, Senior Project Manager, ORCA Archaeology commented, “This is a rare opportunity to excavate a large area of good archaeological potential and we anticipate it will add significantly to our understanding of how people interacted with the landscape near the World Heritage Area.”
SSEN’s Environmental Project Manager, Simon Hall adds, “Given Orkney’s vast, rich and highly significant archaeology, we are fully committed to work with all relevant bodies to avoid or mitigate impacts and protect Orkney’s archaeological heritage.In the event of any archaeological discoveries of interest we are committed to ensure these are fully documented, preserved if possible, with our findings shared with interested parties.”
For further information on the proposals see the SSEN website at............
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A team from ORCA Archaeology unearthed sections of wall and cobbled surface this week while undertaking a watching brief for an Orkney Islands Council infrastructure project in the centre of Kirkwall.
To date, three walls in total have been uncovered during the works. One substantial wall set back from the road junction is built using immense stone blocks and lime mortar indicating that it is part of the now demolished fourteenth-century Kirkwall Castle.
The castle itself was built without royal consent in the late fourteenth century by Earl Henry Sinclair while Orkney was still ruled by Scandinavian kings and was said to be one of the strongest castles in the realm. In the early seventeenth century the castle saw action when it was defended by the rebellious Stewart Earls against the Scottish King’s forces under the Earl of Caithness. The structure was so strong that cannon balls were said to “split like wooden golf balls against the walls”!
Following the siege, an order was given by the Scottish King James VI to dismantle the castle in 1615 so that it could not be used again as a centre of rebellion. This process of destruction was completed in 1865 when the remaining structure was demolished to make way for Castle Street. There are now no visible signs of this immense fortification to be seen above ground, although previous building works in the 1980s revealed massive stone walls close to the present site which most likely were the foundations of the castle.
While the ORCA Archaeology team continues to dig the fascinating and substantial finds, the road project continues.
Pete Higgins, Senior Project Manager ORCA Archaeology commented, “ This is an area of the city that we know was the site of the castle and it is exciting to see the remains of the possible curtain wall and part of the fourteenth-century Kirkwall Castle in situ..”
The whole site will be recorded, added to the historical archive and covered over again so that the infrastructure works can progress without delay.
A watching brief investigation involves the use of rapid archaeological recording techniques and is usually carried out in response to planning conditions. Work programmes are created to fit in with budget and development requirements.
ORCA Archaeology is pleased to announce that they have been awarded a grant of £202,000 by Historic Environment Scotland to complete an important archaeology research project centred on Newark Bay, Deerness, Orkney.
Newark is the site of an early medieval chapel and extensive cemetery and was the focus of rescue excavations by the late Professor Brothwell between 1968 and 1972. Due to various circumstances, the work never came to publication and part of this new ORCA Archaeology project will be to address this.
Like so many sites in Orkney, coastal erosion is a significant problem and has caused structural and human remains to have been lost over the years since Professor Brothwell's original excavation.
Some 250 burials were recovered, making it one of the largest medieval cemeteries in Scotland. It was also the location of a post-medieval mansion house, partly revealed during excavation. Subsequent work at Newark includes recovery of a Class II Pictish Carved Stone, the second almost complete example of its type from Orkney.
Professor Brothwell’s archive is not publicly available, and with his excavation findings remaining unpublished, the potential for further analysis of the skeletal assemblage has yet to be fully exploited. This project therefore aims to address these issues and aims to:
The project will be rolled out over three years starting in April 2019........
Publication: bringing together all work at the site from Professor Brothwell onwards, providing a current statement of knowledge and understanding, and setting out recommendations for future research.
Archive: bringing the Newark archive within the public domain via a digital repository. Includes cataloguing all skeletal material and digitising the archive.
Analysis of the skeletal remains, including full recording, C14 dating and isotopic analysis of a percentage of the assemblage. A full report will be published of findings.
Creation of a collaborative ancient DNA project. Creation of mobile exhibition about the site to be held at Orkney Museum and local community hall(s).
Pete Higgins, Senior Project Manager, ORCA Archaeology said, “We are very excited to have secured this funding for work at such an important site that is continually under attack from coastal erosion. We are looking forward to involving the community in the process through outreach training and workshops and, over the next three years, this project will provide vital information for the record which in turn will help us understand more fully the society that these people created in Orkney during the medieval period. The site includes finds from the Pictish through to the Viking period.”
The community are integral to the project. They have a long-term investment in the site at Newark and want to see previous work brought to publication and the archive disseminated. This project provides opportunities for their involvement throughout.
This blog has been created by Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology in beautiful Orkney. We aim to add features and news about our work on the islands and further afield on a regular basis.