Researching Orkney – Useful hints

Standing stones
The Standing Stones at the Stones of Stenness are spectacular in their own right but what did they mean to those who built them? In order to be up to date with the latest interpretation you will have to do some research.

Are you planning a novel around the wonderful archaeology of Orkney?

Perhaps you have a proposition for a television programme in mind?

You might be a journalist, or writing a magazine piece?

Maybe you are planning a trip to Orkney and want to inform yourself about sites to visit.

There are so many books and sources of information that it can be hard to know where to start. I thought that it might be useful to set out some basic material as a pointer to help you on your way. Then, if you feel in need of more detailed information, or a specialised consultation, you can contact me and we can discuss how I might be able to help. This way, you don’t need to pay for the very basic work, which is all freely available.

Orkney Archaeology

Between the Wind and the Water by Caroline Wickham-Jones: provides an excellent introduction to the archaeology of Orkney including a detailed look at the sites that make up The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

Orkney – an historical guide also by Caroline Wickham-Jones: provides a good basic guide to archaeological and historic sites across Orkney.

The Orkney Guide by Charles Tait: an excellent and well-illustrated guide to Orkney including information on life in the islands today as well as the archaeology and history.

If you have a look on the website of the Orcadian bookshop you will find a good selection of books on all aspects of Orkney including the two World Wars, Norse Orkney, and modern culture. I am happy to advise on books if you are wondering which best relate to your interests.

In addition, local Antiquarian Sigurd Towrie maintains the wonderful website, Orkneyjar, which will provide you with information on sites, traditions, excavations and most other things you could wish to know about the past in Orkney. He also provides links to ongoing local excavations and their blogs during the summer months.

Scottish Archaeology

Knowledge of Scottish Archaeology is needed in order to place the sites of Orkney into their wider context. A good place to start any research is the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework which was drawn up in 2012 but is, frequently, updated. There are individual panel reports and comprehensive bibliographies for each period (available using the menu on the left), as well as information and reports specific to particular regions.

If you wish to know more about the coming of farming and the world of the hunter-gatherers who preceded the early farmers in Britain then you might find my little book ‘Fear of Farming’ to be interesting.

I suggest that you spend some time familiarizing yourself with the basic information and then you can start to narrow down the issues where you might need more help. When you are at that stage please get in touch!