The team from Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology entered week two of the Papa Westray community archaeology project with the sun shining and the wind dropping to a moderate gale force.
Back on the island, Frank Forrester, our placement student from the University of Bradford, continues the story of the project..........
"Arriving on Papa for my second week, we only had one final site to complete: St.Boniface/ Munkerhoose. One of the aims of the project was to place St. Boniface in context within its wider landscape. This meant in practice completing an survey of the fields surrounding the site in order to produce a topographical survey. This involved a walk over the land using a GPS, measuring the height of of the land."
Frank continues, "Following instruction from the ORCA team I soon found that it was important to cover all of the site systematically, which was best done by simply walking back and fore, in the same spacing. I ran a tape measure out on one side of the field, and another in line at the opposite end - giving me a line to walk. My thanks must go to Rick who taught me how to work the GPS and set me off to work walking up and down three fields."
Finally, "Adding the modern structures that are on the land was also important as it helps to tie in the topographic survey to the coastal survey and the OS maps. This is done by taking key points of the structures, such as corners and changes in wall lines.
However, this surveying was fairly challenging as gale force winds would blow me off course. This was all worth it though, as the topographic map that has been produced through my surveying gives a great representation of the area."
Thanks to Frank for taking the time to write about his experiences on the Papa Westray project.
The team from the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology continued with the Papa Westray baseline assessment of eroding coastal archaeology.
Accompanied by an intrepid band of local volunteers, they battled through the rain, sleet and snow to finish the work.
University of of Bradford work placement student Frank Forrester continues the story....."On the third day we were back working at Kings Craig/Whitehowe, completing more surveying work. This included a photo record of the site, highlighting its current state, and tying in the samples taken and key features. We also found a bone pin, which was literally poking out of the section. This was a very exciting find because it adds to the artefact record and provides an insight into the culture of the people that once lived at the site. A detailed analysis back at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Institute will confirm its age and type of animal bone.
"Our fourth day involved the team finishing off some of the surveying at Cott/Shorehouse before moving on to our third and final site St.Boniface/Munkerhoose.
This site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument that is on the west coast, just north of the twelfth-century St. Boniface church. The site was first investigated in 1998 and showed a roundhouse, situated in a mass of other structure features. However, due to the location of the site, erosion has already resulted in a large section being lost to the sea.
We completed a walk over survey in order to record how much has been lost, and locate features that are still recognisable from the first investigation.
During the fifth and final day, Dr James Moore, Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute; joined us to complete a drone photographic survey of the site. This was exciting for me as it was the first time I had seen a drone work on an archaeological site. This work was very useful as it allowed us to obtain a fantastic digital record of the site in a very short amount of time."
The week had one final card to deal Frank.....the weather was progressively getting worse as the week progressed. Howling wind mixed with snow, sleet and rain hammered against the windows of the departure lounge on Papa Westray as he waited for his flight home. Can you imagine his delight as he saw the small plane start to approach the airstrip, only to be cruelly dashed as the pilot judged it too dangerous to land and flew back to Kirkwall. Frank was left marooned on the island for another night, but it did give him the opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of Papa Westray for a little while longer.
The first week of the community archaeology baseline assessment project in Papa Westray is now over.
The ORCA team had to contend with bitterly cold weather, snow, hail and finally sunshine in the week as they worked with the community volunteers surveying and recording the eroding archaeology present around the coastline of the island. Our work placement student from Bradford University, Frank Forrester, continues the story....
"I arrived at Papa Westry airport at midday, before being picked up by my two colleagues and driving to our first site, Cott/Shorehouse. This site has a series of exposed structures jutting from the coastal section, under a mound that is visible from the surface above. The costal section has a heavy mixture of modern material, as it is situated next to a farm. I was put to work sketching the section, so that it can be used to better understand the site for the writing up of the report. Afterwards I worked with community volunteers to collect some samples that were prominent within the section.
This is important because hopefully we can use these samples to obtain dates from the site, which will give us a greater understanding of the age of the Cott/Shorehouse site. Rick later surveyed in these samples once they were tagged so they could be related to the survey. "
Frank continues,"On our second day we moved onto the second site, Kings Craig/Whitehowe. This site has a deep coastal section ranging from 1 to 5m deep, with the deepest section being below the current Whitehowe farmstead. The archaeology that is visible, ranges from the glacial till at the bottom, through shell middens, agricultural soils to possible Norse structures. The majority of the site was too high for us to be able to take samples and some were covered by pushed over soil. However, from the sections that were accessible we were able to take samples, with volunteer help, which will help give us a better idea for dating the site."
Check out the next blog post for Days 3, 4 and 5 .....when some exciting finds began to be unearthed.
The project was funded by Historic Environment Scotland.
A team from Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology and the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute will be on Papa Westray during March 2018, recording the current state of some of the archaeological sites being eroded by the sea.
Volunteers from the community are invited to take part in surveying and recording training at three eroding coastal sites across the island, starting with a workshop on 3rd March at Cott/Shorehouse.
All are welcome and you do not need archaeology experience to take part. There is no charge for the sessions and you will have the opportunity to learn some basic archaeological techniques.
Wear stout boots and wet weather gear, just in case the weather closes in and bring a packed lunch if you wish to stay for the whole session.
Contact Paul Sharman on email@example.com for more information.
The project is funded by Historic Environment Scotland.
Orkney was one of the most important British naval bases in both world wars and for most of this period was a hive of activity on land, sea and in the air.
RNAS and RAF air bases were scattered across the islands and thousands of sorties were flown by aircraft from these airfields. Tragically, some planes did not return to base and now lie in the waters around Orkney.
In 1986, one of the lost planes from World War II was located by HMS Bildeston, HMS Gavinton and Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service craft Kinloss on the seabed of Scapa Flow during a military exercise. Unfortunately, the aircraft disintegrated as it was recovered, but a Merlin aero engine was brought to the surface, cleaned up and together with the aeroplane’s armament was sent to Lyness Museum. The remainder of the aircraft remained on the sea floor.
During 2014, Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology and Sula Diving completed a collaborative project surveying the archaeological remains on the seabed of Scapa Flow. The wreck site was re-visited in order to video, photograph and record the remains. The wreckage itself lies in 22 metres of water and is likely to be from the cockpit area of a single seater aircraft. No human remains were identified, indicating that the pilot escaped before ditching.
An oxygen regulator, oxygen tanks, hydraulic pump, oxygen/hydraulic pipe work, wiring and some fuselage were recorded amongst numerous steel and aluminium sections. Gauges recovered many years ago suggest that the aircraft is a Spitfire manufactured after 1943…so the crash must have occurred after this date.
However the details of the crash remain a mystery. There does not seem to be any mention of a Spitfire ditching in this area during World War II. Even the aircraft registration number cannot be confirmed from the artefacts recovered.
For now, the Spitfire and pilot’s identity remains a mystery……………..unless anyone reading this knows anything different? This aircraft, in common with the remains of all military aircraft and designated military vessels, is now covered by the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.
For more information see http://www.crashsiteorkney.com/mystery-aircraft-in-scapa-flow
Thanks to Kevin Heath at Sula Diving http://www.suladiving.com/
The ORCA team sometimes have to work in the harshest of conditions and in some of the most isolated areas of Britain. This means that the team has to rely on its own resources to get the job done, but on other occasions the sun shines and the rain and wind stays away.
Such were the conditions on the first few days of the geophysics survey at Kergord on Shetland, with clear blue skies and a few clouds that didn't threaten rain or hail or snow, and the geophysics survey was completed without resort to wet weather gear.
The project, commissioned by Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK, was to undertake a scheme of archaeological fieldwork at Upper Kergord, Shetland, in advance of the development of a proposed electricity converter station.
The investigation focused on four excavation areas targeted over features identified through walkover survey, desk based assessment and during watching briefs of geotechnical works.
The excavation encountered features that represent elements of the Post Medieval/crofting period landscape, including a shieling-type shelter, as well as structural remains which potentially provide evidence for Neolithic or Bronze Age land management.
If you are considering commissioning an archaeological survey, however large or small, in connection with a planning application or development then contact Pete Higgins, ORCA Senior Project Manager, on 01856 569345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Work carries on as part of the A9 dualling as Archaeologists discover a possible Iron Age structure, pottery and a stone tool near the road. The finds have been made on the Crubenmore to Kincraig stretch of the route to be dualled.
The dualling of the A9 trunk road from Perth to Inverness is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Scotland. Over 80 miles of road will be improved over the next 8 years to improve the quality and reliability of journeys along the road. In common with all major infrastructure projects, Transport Scotland has appointed archaeologists in order to check for previously hidden ancient structures and other significant archaeology.
Commercial archaeologists, Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), have been working alongside design consultants CH2M Hill / Fairhurst Joint Venture, and ground investigation contractors, and have opened trial trenches to investigate several interesting anomalies identified in a geophysical survey.
The interest of the archaeologists was heightened further as the ground investigation works are located close to a prehistoric souterrain called Raitt’s Cave near Kingussie. This underground structure is a scheduled monument and is very large compared to most similar structures in Northern Scotland, and yet soutterains in general remain enigmatic as their use is still debated by archaeologists across the UK. They may have been used for storage, defence or some unidentified ritual, but commonly they are associated with settlement in the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Following discussions between Transport Scotland and the ORCA team on site, the preliminary work continued as the archaeologists investigated the anomalies. Traces of a previously unknown structure were quickly identified together with a scattering of pottery sherds and a possible stone Ard point – a stone worked into a point for use as part of a plough. The pottery was identified by Martin Carruthers (Iron Age specialist at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute) as a possible collection of early Iron Age sherds. These finds led the archaeologists to believe that the structure may be associated with the souterrain.
Following advice from ORCA, the team quickly formulated a plan to incorporate the archaeological investigation into the schedule, meaning that the important A9 infrastructure development work could continue while the significant archaeology was recorded in more detail.
Keith Brown Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work said: “Our work to dual the A9 will bring undoubted improvements for road users including improved journey times and significantly improving road safety. At the same time, the ongoing design work has opened a window into Scotland’s past. We have already been able to shed more light on the Battle of Killiecrankie and now these latest finds on another stretch of the route offer evidence for experts on how our prehistoric descendants lived in the Iron Age.”
Peter Higgins, Senior Project Manager ORCA, commented, “We are tremendously excited by these finds in this archaeologically significant location. We are also pleased that we can work with Transport Scotland to make sure that these finds are recorded correctly without impeding the roadworks so vital to this Scotland’s economic development.”
Transport Scotland: The A9 dualling project is a £3 billion infrastructure project designed to improve the links between Perth and Inverness.
The team at ORCA are well versed in tackling any archaeology job in almost any weather! When a client asks for a project to be completed on time and in budget then the team provide solutions and get the job done - even when the Scottish climate does it's best to make things a little difficult.
The picture shows ORCA Project Officer Rick Barton preparing to complete a survey of eroding archaeology on one of the northern islands in Orkney. Rick and Paul Sharman, ORCA Senior Project Officer, first assessed the situation in terms of Health and Safety and ,judging the situation to be safe, worked in torrential rain and very difficult conditions to identify features from an excavation completed in 1982.
For Paul, this was a back to the future experience as he originally worked on this particular site as a young graduate. Rick added to the occasion by reminding Paul that he wouldn't have been allowed to work on that dig because he was only one year old at the time. Paul's reaction is not noted in the documentation!
Archaeology is increasingly using technology to both shed new light on research questions and speed up processes in a drive to become more efficient. ORCA is investing in new technologies and the skills that people such as Jim Bright are now bringing to commercial archaeology.
Jim is a recent MSc graduate of the UHI Archaeology Institute who has developed photogrammetry and 3D modelling through his research at the world-renowned Neolithic excavation at the Ness of Brodgar and the equally important Iron Age dig at The Cairns, South Ronaldsay, Orkney.
Photogrammetry is a method by which a vast number of photographs can be converted into 3D computer models, which can then be viewed by anyone who possesses a computer and readily accessible social media platforms such as Sketchfab.
Following discussions with Pete Higgins, Senior Project Manager Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, the ORCA team realised that Jim’s skills could be used in a commercial archaeology setting to offer clients a new resource and service. 3D modelling is a powerful resource, which can be used to aid client’s own public relations activity, but also, due to the accuracy inherent in the data collection methods, the technique is also used to record archaeologically important sites; replacing time consuming hand drawing– saving precious time on clients sites.
The main tools used are a camera, a Nikon D60 SLR and the software AgiSoft PhotoScan. The process of creating a good 3D model of a structure or item is a multi-phased one. Firstly Jim photographs the area around the object or area for modelling, making sure that the photographs overlap at every angle. Once all the photos had been taken they are uploaded into the software where each photo is checked, removing any blurry or unwanted areas using the masking tool. The alignment process can then begin, this is where the software takes millions of points in each photograph, compares them to the other photographs to identify the position and angle in which they were taken, and from this generate a base point cloud.
Once this is done, any potential errors or bad data can be removed by selecting certain parameters in the software before beginning the dense point cloud generation, where millions of points in a model are created as you can see in the two pictures below, the top image is of the whole model and the bottom one is zoomed right in so you can see all the points which make up the model.
When the dense point cloud has been made, the model is trimmed and tidied before creating the wireframe mesh, where the points are essentially joined up, and millions of triangles or faces are created ready for textures to be painted onto them. The texture file is made up of all the photographs taken to create the model which will then be wrapped around the mesh. The texture generation is the final process in the workflow of creating a 3D model.
That data’s geolocation coordinates are recorded using a total station theodolite (an electronic/optical instrument used for surveying and building construction). Once input, the ruler tool becomes available in the software, which allows the user to measure the 3D model down to the nearest millimetre.
The 3D models can be used as embedded images in presentations, press releases or social media have been used as an addition to the archaeological record of certain trenches, where models are created at different phases of excavation.
The archaeological work on the hospital site was successful in identifying where the archaeology was located and informing the strategy to avoid it.
An archaeological watching brief was undertaken on behalf of NHS Orkney, during the topsoil strip by machine, across the site of the new hospital and healthcare facilities in Kirkwall from the 24/04/2017 - 1/05/2017.
During the watching brief a number of linear features, interpreted as post-medieval land drains and boundary ditches were identified. Also identified was the edge of a former quarry pit that was shown on the First Edition 6-inch Ordnance Survey map.
The watching brief confirmed that the surviving significant (prehistoric) archaeology was focused in the area investigated during the evaluation in Trenches 1 and 9
This area had been avoided by the design for the current scheme of works. No features or material of archaeological significance were identified during the programme of archaeological works.
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.