Professor Ingrid Mainland


Ingrid Mainland at Skaill

Research Interests

I am a zooarchaeologist with research interests and expertise in palaeodiet (dental microwear, isotope applications), ancient farming economies and the archaeology of food and consumption. I have a particular interest in Scotland and the North Atlantic islands where I have worked on faunas spanning the Neolithic to the early 20th century AD. My research in this area is changing our understanding of human-animal relations in North Atlantic island ecosystems and the resilience of these island communities: from the scale and significance of cattle husbandry in early farming societies at Neolithic Ness of Brodgar, to the role of commensality in Medieval European society and dietary traditions in Post-Medieval Scotland.

Research projects

Landscape of change: Rousay clearances and Westness estate (with Dan Lee, Sarah Jane Gibbon and Jen Harland). Archival research, landscape survey, building recording, and sample excavation as an investigative tool to explore how the early medieval estate at Westness has developed from the late first millennium to the present.

RIDIR: Building Cyberinfrastructure to Enable Interdisciplinary Research on the Long-Term Human Ecodynamics of the North Atlantic (led by Colleen Strawhacker, U. of Colorado, Boulder). This NSF-funded project will produce online tools and infrastructure to enable researchers from a broad range of disciplines to study human ecodynamics in the North Atlantic context.

Assessing the Distribution and Variability of Marine Mammals through Archaeology, Ancient DNA, and History in the North Atlantic. (led Vicki Szabo, U. of W. Carolina). This NSF-funded project seeks to understand prehistoric and historical Norse uses of whales, seals and walruses in the North Atlantic and Eastern Arctic over the course of the Middle Ages, from 800-1500 CE (Common Era).

Herding economies, sustainability and resilience in Viking and Norse Orkney (British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship 2014-5). This explored the role of Norse herding economies in underpinning societal sustainability through gift-giving, feasting and the emerging long distance trade networks in commodities of the Early Medieval period.

Islay faunas (in collaboration with Steve Mithen, U. of Reading). Project zooarchaeologist for Dunyvaig castle, the medieval naval fortress of the Lords of the Isles, the chiefs of Clan MacDonald and Rubha Port an t-Seilich, one of the earliest Mesolithic sites in Scotland.

Research supervision

I have supervised Masters and PhD dissertations on topics in North Atlantic archaeology, zooarchaeology, paleaeodiet and human-animal interactions

I am interested in supervising research students with an interest in:

  • Food, feasting and commensality in later prehistory and early Medieval contexts
  • Animal husbandry and farming in the North Atlantic, including Scotland and the Scottish Isles
  • Palaeodiet – human and animal dental microwear; isotopes
  • Sustainability education and climate change
  • Foodways and dietary traditions in Post-Medieval Scotland

Academic Responsibilities

  • Curriculum Leader Archaeology
  • Programme Leader MLitt Archaeological Studies
  • Lecturing on MSc Archaeological practice and MLitt Archaeological studies (Module leader for: Research & Communication; Dissertation)
  • Lecturing on Undergraduate Archaeology degree programmes (Module leader for: Archaeological Sciences; People, Plants & Animals; Archaeological Project; Sustainability Past & Present)

External responsibilities and memberships

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
  • Associate Editor of Environmental Archaeology
  • Member of Association for Environmental Archaeology (AEA)
  • Member of International Congress of Archaeozoology (ICAZ)
  • Member of NABO (Northern Atlantic Biocultural Organisation)
  • Member of GHEA (Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance)
  • Member of PAN (the Polar Archaeology Network)
  • Member of Humanities for the Environment Global Observatories

Selected Publications

Mainland, I. and Batey, C. 2019. The nature of the feast: commensality and the politics of consumption in Viking Age and Early Medieval Northern Europe. World Archaeology doi. 10.1080/00438243.2019.1578260.

Blanz, M., Ascough, P., Mainland, I., Martin, P., Taggart, M.A., Dieterich, B., Wishart, J., Sayle, K.L., Raab, A. and Feldmann, J., 2019. Seaweed fertilisation impacts the chemical and isotopic composition of barley: Implications for analyses of archaeological skeletal remains. Journal of Archaeological Science, 104, 34-44.

Mainland, I., Ewens, V. and Webster, C. 2019. The faunal remains from Viking and Late Norse Snusgar. In Griffiths, D. (eds.). Beside the Ocean: Coastal Landscapes at the Bay of Skaill, Marwick and Birsay Bay, Orkney. Archaeological Research 2003-16. Oxbow Books/Historic Scotland.

Ascough, P., Mainland, I. and Newton, A. 2018. From iscoscapes to farmsteads: introduction to the special issue. Environmental Archaeology 23, 299-302.

Card, N., Mainland, I., Timpany, S., Dubar, E., Reimer, P., Bayliss, A., Marshall, P. and Whittle, A. 2018. To cut a long story short: formal chronological modelling for the Late Neolithic site of Ness of Brodgar, Orkney. European Journal of Archaeology 21, 217-263 (DOI: 10.1017/eaa.2016.29).

 Mainland, I., Towers, J., Ewens, V., Davis, G., Montgomery, J., Batey, C., Card, N., and Downes, J. 2016. Toiling with teeth: an integrated dental analysis of sheep and cattle dentition in Iron Age and Viking-Late Norse Orkney. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 6, 837-855

 Towers, J., Mainland, I., Bond, J. and Montgomery, J. 2017. Calving seasonality at Pool, Orkney during the first millennium A.D.: an investigation using intra-tooth isotope ratio analysis of cattle molar enamel. Environmental Archaeology 22, 1-16

Richards, C., Clarke, A., Ingrem, C., Mulville, J. and Mainland, I. 2015. Containment, closure and red deer: a Late Neolithic butchery site at Skaill Bay, Mainland, Orkney. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 145, 91-124.

Cucchi, T.,  Barnett, R., Martínková, N., Renaud, S., Renvoisé, E., Evin, A., Sheridan, A., Mainland, et al. 2014. The changing pace of insular life: 5000 years of microevolution in the orkney vole (Microtus arvalis orcadensis). Evolution 68(10):2804-20

Mainland, I., Card, N., Saunders, M. K., Webster, C., Isaksen, I., Downes, J. and Littlewood, M. 2014. SmartFauna’: a microscale GIS-based multi-dimensional approach to faunal deposition at the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney. Journal of Archaeological Science 41, 868-878.

Balasse, M., Obein, J., Ughetti-Monfrin, J., Mainland, I. 2012. Investigating seasonality and season of birth in past herds: a reference set of sheep enamel stable oxygen isotpe ratios. Archaeometry 54, 349-368.

Towers, J., Jay, M., Mainland, I., Montgomery, J. 2011. A calf for all seasons: the potential of stable isotope analysis to investigate past husbandry practices, Journal of Archaeological Sciences 38,1858-1868.

McGovern, T.H., Perdikaris, S., Mainland, I., Ascough, P., Ewens, V., Einarsson, A., Sidell, J., Hambrecht, G., Harrison, R., 2010. The Hofstaðir archaeofauna, in: Lucas,G. (Ed.), Hofstaðir: a Viking Age Center in Northeastern Iceland, Oxbow Boks, Oxford.

Gibson, A, Bayliss, A. with contributions by Mainland, I. et al. 2010. Recent work on the round barrows of the Upper Wolds valley, pp. 72-107 in Leary, J., Darvill, T. and Field, D. Round Mounds and Monumentality in the British Neolithic and Beyond. Oxford: Oxbow, 2010.

Contact Details

T: 01856 569323

Email Ingrid

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