The establishment of the Willamette University Archaeology Field School at the Ness of Brodgar in the Orkney Islands of Scotland represents an amazing opportunity with enormous potential for both faculty and students. Currently Willamette is the only American university to partner with the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology and the University of the Highlands and Islands on this award winning and internationally recognized project. Excavations at this site are redefining our understanding of the Neolithic world and the site has received several honors including being named Current Archaeology magazine’s “Research Project of the Year” in 2011 and was recently featured by National Geographic Daily News.
The Ness of Brodgar is a large Neolithic complex (3200 B.C.) that predates Stonehenge and may include up to one hundred buildings in a walled enclosure. The site lies at the center of one of the richest Neolithic monument complexes in all of Europe and is part of the Heart of the Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site. The excavation site lies at the center of Mainland Orkney, near the Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness, Maew Howe, the Comet Stone, the Watch Stone, the Barnhouse Stone, and the Neolithic Barnhouse settlement. The Ness itself was considered to be a natural linear ridge separating two inland lakes, the Lock of Stenness and the Loch of Harray, until a geophysical survey in 2002 revealed a dense set of anomalies suggesting a rich concentration of monumental structures covering an area of 2.5 hectares.
A rescue excavation in 2003 followed by summer field excavations from 2008 on, have revealed a fantastic array of large-scale, Neolithic multi-phased monumental architecture that has no parallel in the Orkney Islands or anywhere else in the British Isles. The site also features the earliest painted walls in northern Europe. Willamette University, in partnership with Orkney College, University of the Highlands and Islands, and the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, will continue the excavations of this linear ‘tel-like’ structure to better understand the use and history of the numerous monumental structures as well as understand the site in the greater archaeological landscape. The large-scale architecture; evidence of multi-phased rebuilding; the superb quality of walls and paving, and the lack of large amounts of midden-like material suggest that the Ness of Brodgar was more than a domestic space and that the area served some other greater social purpose.
The Ness of Brodgar Field School provides intensive, on-site training in archaeological methods and techniques in conjunction with the Ness of Brodgar archaeology project. The excavation emphasizes a holistic approach to archaeological inquiry. In addition to daily instruction on excavation theory, technique and recovery, course lectures and fieldwork will emphasize a variety of topics including topographical and geophysical survey techniques, stratigraphy, ceramic typology, geomorphology, paleobotany, and the archaeology of the Orkney Islands. Visits to regional archaeological sites and museums give students a broad cultural and historical background in the archaeology of the region.
$5,760 ($5,960 for non-WU students). This includes tuition, lodging, local transportation and ferry fees, travel insurance, museum fees and field trips). International airfare, transportation to the Orkney Islands and board are NOT included.
Willamette University students who are interested in participating in the field school are encouraged to apply to the Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology Student Field School Grants that provide funding (up to $2,000) toward the cost of program fees and travel to and from the site.
© Scott Pike 2010