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Student awarded scholarship to study Ness of Brodgar slates

Thursday 30 July 2015
Student awarded scholarship to study Ness of Brodgar slates

Neil Ackerman investigating the Ness of Brodgar slates

A student at Orkney College UHI has received funding to conduct research into Neolithic roof slates during his summer break.

Neil Ackerman (27), a University of the Highlands and Islands archaeology student from Edinburgh, has been awarded a Carnegie Trust Vacation Scholarship to investigate slate-like objects found at the Ness of Brodgar site in Orkney. Over 400 of the artefacts have been discovered, but have yet to be fully analysed and recorded.

“Despite much research, little is known about roofing materials used in Neolithic structures in northern Europe,” Neil explained. “Due to the absence of identifiable materials, it is often believed that biodegradable materials such as turf or thatch were used. However, a large number of what appear to be stone roofing tiles have been found during the Ness of Brodgar excavations. While these have been initially interpreted as roofing tiles and have undergone initial cataloguing, both the recording and final interpretation of these unique artefacts remain incomplete. I’m aiming to conduct a detailed analysis and recording of all the ‘roof tiles’ found to date.”

Working from the excavation itself, Neil is investigating factors including where the stones came from, what wear patterns they display and how they were deposited to reveal clues about how they were created and used. He hopes to tap into the expertise of the archaeologists on site and feed his results into the wider Ness of Brodgar excavation. He also plans to present his findings in academic journals, at a national conference and to use them as a basis for his final year dissertation.

Neil has received £1,050 to support the six week project, which runs until the end of August. Speaking about the award, he said: “I’m delighted to have received this scholarship; I wouldn’t have been able to conduct this research without it. It will allow me to expand on the skills I’ve gained in my academic studies and to strengthen my C.V. My research should contribute to our understanding of roofing technology from this period as well as to the internationally recognised hub of research which surrounds the Ness of Brodgar.”

Nick Card, director of the Ness of Brodgar with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, said: “The discovery of stone slates at the Ness was another ‘first’ for the excavation in terms of British prehistory and this study will make a valuable contribution to the analysis of the site’s buildings and architecture.”