Archaeology symposium to tackle key research questions for the future of archaeological research

21 March 2023
Experts from around the world are gathering in Orkney this weekend for the third, and final, Scotland’s Island Research Framework for Archaeology (SIRFA) symposium.

The event runs from 24 to 27 March 2023 and brings together a wide range of archaeologists and heritage-sector stakeholders to agree on gaps in knowledge and understanding of Orkney’s past.

The result will be a set of key research questions for the future of archaeological research across Scotland’s islands.

Over 130 delegates have signed up, representing local, regional and international experts and stakeholders from more than 36 different organisations. The event will include a series of workshops interspersed with fieldtrips to key archaeological sites and historic landscapes across Orkney.

It will be officially opened by Culture Minister Neil Gray who was born and brought up in Orkney and a former pupil of Kirkwall Grammar School. Mr Gray will be joined by Graham Bevan, Orkney Islands Council (OIC) Convener, at a private event hosted by the OIC on Friday evening.

Culture Minister Neil Gray said: “As someone who is from Orkney, I know just how important Scotland’s islands are in the field of archaeology and the opportunities offered by this collaborative framework will allow significantly greater understanding of our cultural heritage.


“This project aligns with the Scottish Government’s investment in our cultural heritage through Historic Environment Scotland which has funded this work, as part of Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy, to help protect and preserve our historic environment for current and future generations.”

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Orkney County Archaeologist Paul Sharman described the event as vitally important for Orkney and the future of its archaeological research.

“We have world-class archaeological sites and resources, and everyone appreciates the value this brings to our islands. With the development of several national initiatives that seek to strengthen island communities, 2023 is great time to be thinking about where we want to be in next few decades with regard to Orkney’s archaeology.”

Professor Jane Downes, Director of the UHI Archaeology Institute, added: “I’m delighted that so many people have signed up for the SIRFA Symposium here in Kirkwall. To see so many active researchers and experts engaging in the project is excellent – it’s going to be an extremely interesting few days.”

Public event

As part of the Orkney SIRFA Symposium there will be a public talk on Orkney’s World Heritage Sites, with presentations from Alice Lyall, from Historic Environment Scotland, and Professor Mike Parker Pearson, from University College London.

Neolithic Orkney in its wider context – a reflection on Orkney’s World Heritage Sites takes place at the Orkney Theatre, Kirkwall, on Sunday, March 26, at 6.30pm. The event is free and all are welcome.

(report courtesy of Orkney Islands Council; image copyright Oliver Dixon, CCASA 2.0)