Julie Gibson

Julie Gibson

Julie is part-time lecturer in Archaeology for the MA Archaeological Practice. She is also the County Archaeologist for Orkney.

Research interests

  • Her research interests include heritage tourism, media in archaeology, Viking and Norse archaeology, curatorial archaeology, as well as coastal, intertidal and marine archaeology.

Academic responsibilities

  • Professional Practice

Recent publications

  • Tourism and Archaeology in Orkney: The Ness Effect. The Archaeologist. Spring 2014. pp14-21.www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/TA91-spring14-web.pdf 
  • Gibson, J. (2014)  Shaped by the Sea: The Endangered Archaeology of Orkney’s Maritime Communities.  In Ramona Harrison and Ruth Maher’s  “Human Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic” (eds). "The Human Ecodynamics approach of the authors brings together archaeologists, environmental historians, and palaeoecologists to provide new theoretical insights and solid scientific evidence to make real-world decisions……the experiences and responses of the authors may prove to be the “canary in the coal mine” for all of us interested in how to best face climate change in the future”  Charles Redman  Arizona State University.

  • Gibson, J. (2008) Rising Tides: the loss of coastal heritage in Orkney. Orkney College

  • This lavishly illustrated guide (with colour photos by Frank Bradford) is a guide to the wilder side of Orkney’s archaeological land- and sea-scape. Available by post from Kat Fryer Link to ORCA page.

  • Card, N. Downes, J. Gibson, J. and Ovenden, S. (2007) 'Bringing a landscape to life? Researching and managing ‘The Heart of Neolithic Orkney' World Heritage Site', World Archaeology, 39(3), 417 - 435.

  • Gibson, J. (2005) ‘Prioritisation of research’ in J. Downes, S.M. Foster and C.R. Wickham-Jones, with J. Callister (eds) The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site Research Agenda. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland.

  • Grieve, S. J. with Gibson, J. (2005) ‘Assessment of the Historic Period’ in J. Downes, S.M. Foster and C.R. Wickham-Jones, with J. Callister (eds) The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site Research Agenda. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland.

  • Card, N, Downes, J, Gibson, J and Sharman, P (2005) ‘Religion and metalworking at Mine Howe, Orkney’, Current Archaeology 199 (Sep/Oct 2005), 322-7.


Papers Given at Conferences


Summary: About 100 years ago a sea wall was built facing the Atlantic in the centre of an eroding bay. This protects Skara Brae, Orkney’s World Heritage Neolithic village against the force of the waves. That wall still stands. In the 1920s and 30’s in the face of a grave national depression, there was investment in this site for the purpose of understanding and for exhibiting archaeological marvels to the public. Gordon Childe, one of Europe’s leading archaeologists was commissioned to “clear out Skara Brae”. His legacy and that of the then government are his researches and the site of Skara Brae, still in state care. It is central to the tourism industry of our small, ultra rural, islands today, where half our visitors state they choose to come to Orkney for the archaeology. Tourism is Orkney's growth industry.

One third of all known archaeological sites in Orkney are on the coast and the sea is rapidly eroding them: The more interesting and complex these sites are the less likely it is that state money can be had to excavate and preserve any part of them. Sites as important and with potential as good as Skara Brae are being left to fall into the sea, and a community is left watching the erosion of its heritage. This paper proposes that substantial investment in excavation and sea walls worked together can create new attractions for our future, a positive legacy to be evaluated against a 50 or 100 year return.

Delivered at European Archaeology Association conference 2015


The adaptation of reefs and tidal ponds for use as harbours and protected landing places has occurred in several places in Orkney’s islands. Small cuts in natural rocky reefs and construction of small walls to extend reefs to dam water provided security for boats against the strong tides and wind-driven seas, and convenient ebb-dry facilities for loading and unloading.Until recently landing places of the Viking and medieval period in Orkney have been thought of mainly in terms of beaches, slips and nousts. These newly recognised modified pools add to the suite of structures available for a safe landing out of the waves. A lack of direct dating evidence associated with any of these structures requires that a multi-disciplinary, including a toponymic and archaeological, approach is taken to identify and potentially date these harbours which seem to relate to Orkney in the Viking and Medieval period.Today, local knowledge on sailing in and out of these pools has all but disappeared, yet where small boat fishermen still understand their uses gaining this information is a key to understanding this significant part of Orkney's maritime landscape.

Delivered at European Archaeology Association conference 2015

Recent Lectures by Invitation

  • The Burial of the Viking Woman of Scar, Orkney - a manifestation of power, sacrifice and sentiment. Delivered at Destination Viking project seminar. May 2016. Catoira, Spain.
  • Peter Hall Seminar 2015 Researching and Representing the Medieval” York, England“ Destination Viking Lecture “The passing of a powerful woman:  The Scar, Orkney, Viking boat grave discussed in terms of sacrifice and sentiment.”
  • Invited speaker Sligo Field Club conference, 2015, Ireland  “Archaeology and Tourism, the Orkney Experience”


Current Member of:

  • Executive Committee of ALGAO Scotland (Association of Local Government Archaeologists), 2016-
  • The North Fish Network,. International academic research project co-ordinated by National Museum of Denmark.  Project: Gruel, Bread and Fish – Changes in the Material Culture related to Food Production in the North Atlantic 800-1300 AD  Julie Gibson is contributing on Orcadian Viking and medieval harbours and landing places, with Paul Sharman ORCA Marine, UHI Institute of Archaeology.
  • Boyne to Brodgar network:  A Scottish/Irish/Manx initiative focusing on Neolithic monuments.
  • Viking Society for Northern Research


Contact Details

Tel: 01856569341

Email Julie