Archaeology Institute


The university’s Archaeology Institute offers students an opportunity to get involved in volunteering projects while they are studying with the institute.

Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist, manages the Archaeology Institute’s volunteer programme. Dan explains: “Volunteering is generally split between fieldwork in the summer months (e.g. excavation, survey) and post-excavation activities during the winter (e.g. finds processing, cataloguing etc). Many students take the opportunity to volunteer all year round, gaining valuable insights into the whole archaeological process. For post-excavation activities, a list of all the volunteering opportunities available with the Archaeology Institute are posted to the student resources section of the VLE, along with an announcement.  This reaches all our students across the university. The volunteering opportunities on offer tend to be post-excavation projects, such as finds processing, cataloguing, data input and records management, etc. These projects run throughout the first and second semesters and could last anything from one week to 6 months. Often students are keen to take on a new volunteer project once they have completed their first. As well as the hands-on experience and skills development, students also benefit from having new and old students coming together, which provides a great networking opportunity and peer support for the newer students.  Many volunteers often get the chance to take part in the summer excavations at the end of the academic year, extending the requirements of core modules. Volunteering on these, now world-famous, sites is a unique experience for the students as well as an opportunity to develop excavation skills.

Kath Page, Archaeology studentKath Page is a second year student on the BA (Hons) Archaeology degree and has taken full advantage of the opportunities provided by the Archaeology Institute, volunteering on a range of activities.

Kath tells us about the projects that she has been involved in and the value she has found in volunteering:

“I have been involved in many of the community archaeology projects. One of these was “The Heart of Neolithic Orkney Community Map project” which involved walking through the World Heritage Site and documenting the landscape in terms of observations, memories and stories. Along with my children, I took part in the Glow in the ArchaeoDark project on World Heritage Site day at Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar. I have also been involved in the Mapping Magnus project, field surveying, excavating and researching in the archives.

At college I have been involved in finds washing and cataloguing these in spreadsheets. In addition to the volunteering I undertake within the Institute, I also volunteer at the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall once a week where I am currently sorting through the old museum collection, repackaging the items and cross-checking them in the museum registry for digital processing. I have also volunteered at the Ness of Brodgar excavation for 2 seasons now.

Personally, I feel the volunteering opportunities provided by the Archaeology Institute are wide-ranging and essential for my skills development. It gives me the opportunity to try out different disciplines within archaeology that might not be covered within the course syllabus. It is great for networking and for awareness of other projects and archaeology groups within Orkney and beyond.

I enjoy the opportunity to handle the finds at each part of the recovery and preservation process and to learn more about them, so I can be better at identification when excavating. It also helps me to understand the wider context and history of Orkney. I also enjoy learning from others and developing friendships and professional relationships with a wide range of people and professionals.”

Gary Lloyd is also in his second year of the BA (Hons) Archaeology degree and has been involved in a variety of archaeology volunteering activities over the past 18 months.

Gary explains: “Throughout the academic year I participated in a field-walking project in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney looking for prehistoric and historic artifacts uncovered in newly plowed fields. I gained hands on experience in building survey and archive research from a medieval building survey project in Kirkwall. I worked on post excavation projects, including processing and cataloguing stone tools and artifacts recovered from the Neolithic site at the Ness of Brodgar, and processing and cataloguing animal bones recovered from the Iron Age site at The Cairns.  During the summer months, I worked as an excavation volunteer at The Cairns, and as a volunteer processing small finds and stone artifacts on site at the Ness of Brodgar.

Volunteering gives me the opportunity to add practical experience to the theoretical material presented in the classroom. Not only does it reinforce the knowledge I’ve gained, it also provides access to material not always available elsewhere. It gives me the chance to interact with, learn from, ask questions of, and network with the experts. In addition, it gives me the chance to experience a variety of different jobs, on a trial basis, in areas of particular interest.  
I enjoy working with people that have similar interests, and having the chance to make worthwhile contributions to projects.”

Sam Golder, Archaeology studentThe volunteering opportunities are available to all students studying archaeology across the university and the Institute recently welcomed Sam Golder, a fourth year student studying Scottish History and Archaeology at Perth College, for a week’s volunteering. Sam says:  “Overall, my trip to Orkney has been a very enjoyable experience which has provided me with some new skills that I will be able to use in the years to come as I continue my foray into the world of archaeology.

The staff are all very friendly and helpful and the volunteering options are endless which has allowed me to obtain a wealth of knowledge that I could not have gained in Perth.   I am currently writing my dissertation and after I complete my degree I plan to further my experience within archaeology by returning to Orkney next summer to take part in the dig at Skaill Farmhouse and also The Cairns in South Ronaldsay. ”

If you are studying with the Archaeology Institute and interested in getting involved in volunteering activities contact Dan Lee, Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist.