Development of heritage in Orkney
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Unit of AssessmentGeography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
History and Archaeology: Archaeology, Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
Specialising in Neolithic archaeology, Professor Colin Richards
communicates his research
beyond academic audiences to the public through museum and community
lectures, newspapers and television. His work has raised local and
international awareness of
archaeology in Orkney, and tourism through, for example, the
reconstruction of archaeological
sites thereby contributing to the UNESCO World Heritage status of Orkney.
His research has
shaped the international profile of these heritage resources through the
regional World Heritage
research framework, and public presentation of monuments within the World
Richards' research also underpinned specialist evidence at a public
windfarm inquiry, the outcome
of which contributed to Orkney Island Council windfarm development Policy.
Richards began archaeological investigations in Orkney in 1986. Whilst
initial investigations were
undertaken at the University of Glasgow, a series of projects developed
and came to fruition at the
University of Manchester after 2000.
Between 1986-2013 (Manchester period 2000-13), this research focused on
the third and fourth
millennium BC occupation of Orkney. It was funded by Historic Scotland,
Orkney Island Council,
British Academy, NERC, Society of Antiquaries of London, and Scotland
(total research income
£464,658). The underpinning research for the impact described in this case
study took the form of
- Barnhouse and Maeshowe 1987-93 (3.2);
- Stonehall, Crossiecrown, Wideford Hill, Smerquoy and Muckquoy between
(Richards in prep);
- Vestra Fiold 2001-3; Ring of Brodgar 2008-12 (3.3) coupled with museum
academic synthesis and extensive written output.
This research breaks down into three major components:
- Investigation of the relationship between settlement (Barnhouse) and
of Stenness and Maeshowe) in central western Mainland, Orkney.
- Settlement and chambered tombs in central Mainland, Orkney.
- Monumental construction and landscape in central western Mainland,
The research is groundbreaking and unusual in terms of both duration
(1983 - 2013) and number
of new archaeological sites located. More importantly, it was undertaken
within a coherent
theoretical framework. This allowed a range of diverse archaeological
sites, which had previously
been treated in isolation, to be amalgamated in interpretative accounts
Orkney is outstanding in having stone built habitations and monuments —
making it unique in the
archaeology of NW Europe. It is this relationship that formed the core of
the first and second
phases of work (3.2, in prep). Finally, the construction and constitution
of the two stone circles in
the WHS area formed the theme of the third phase of research in Orkney
The direct products gained from this considerable body of research
include the discovery and
investigation of six new Neolithic settlements: Barnhouse, Stonehall,
Wideford Hill and
Crossiecrown, the former of which was reconstructed for public
presentation (5.4). Two further new
Neolithic settlements were investigated (Smerquoy and Redland) in 2012-3.
Other excavations at
Vestra Fiold and Ring of Brodgar have produced a wealth of new information
for the World
Heritage sites (5.1, 5.2, 5.3, & 5.4). This regional approach, with
the integration of a series of
smaller components into a larger whole, has transformed understanding and
resulted in a new set
of interpretations of the Neolithic of Orkney (5.2, 5.3 & 5.4). This
strand of research is still
extremely productive and continues to feed into current impact activities
(e.g. public open days and
newspaper coverage April-May 2013)
References to the research
(AOR-available on request)
3.1 Richards, C. 2004. A choreography of construction: monuments,
mobilization and social
organisation in late Neolithic Orkney, in J. Cherry, C. Scarre & S.
Explaining social change, Cambridge: McDonald Institute Research
3.2 Richards, C. (ed) 2005. Dwelling among the Monuments: the
Neolithic village of
Barnhouse, Maeshowe passage grave and surrounding monuments at Stenness,
McDonald Institute Research Monograph, Cambridge. (AOR).
The above monograph constitutes the major research output — it reported
an important site
discovered and excavated by Richards (and reconstructed for public
presentation) in the
heart of the WHS area, the monograph was described as `innovative'
(Pollard 2006, 468)
and `ground breaking' (Hunter 2005, 95) in approach and represented a
to the discipline.
3.3 Richards, C. 2013. Building the Great Stone Circles of the North.
Oxford: Windgather Press
The above monograph constitutes the second major research output for
this case study.
On the basis of this research Richards made a major contribution to the
UNESCO "Heart of
Neolithic Orkney' World Heritage Site Research Agenda produced by Historic
3.4 Richards, C. 2005. Period based research and temporality, in J.
Downes, S. M. Foster, C.
R. Wickham-Jones with J. Callister (eds.) The Heart of Neolithic Orkney
Site: Research Agenda, Edinburgh: Historic Scotland Monographs,
3.5 Jones, S. & C. Richards, 2005a. Artefacts, monuments and cultural
identity, in J. Downes,
S. M. Foster, C. R. Wickham-Jones with J. Callister (eds.) The Heart of
World Heritage Site: Research Agenda, Edinburgh: Historic Scotland
Details of the impact
During the period 2000-2005 ongoing research was conducted and
excavations at Barnhouse and
Maeshowe were brought to publication (3.2). In 2013 the Cuween-Wideford
where six new Neolithic settlements were investigated, was completed. The
Great Stone Circles
Project (2001-12) fieldwork was brought to publication in 2013 (3.3).
Pathways to impact
Having been presented in local, national and international academic
conferences and published in
a range of outlets ranging from a leading monograph series (McDonald
Institute) to the Orcadian
Newspaper, the research has led to museum displays, exhibitions, local
lectures, radio and
television presentations. Richards' research also informs the
interpretation and presentation of
Orcadian WHS though Historic Scotland books (e.g. Maeshowe, Heart of
Neolithic Ork), guide
books and web sites (e.g. `orkneyjar').
Reach and significance
The mechanism of impact is through a prolonged period of activity that
falls into four areas:
- Enhancing tourism and enriching visitor experience.
- Contributing to the awarding of World Heritage listed status to the
constituting the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage
- Providing expert evidence for use in the Merranblo wind-farm inquiry.
- Impact on public discourse of the Orcadian archaeological heritage.
Outcomes of the research responsible for the first two areas of impact
are: first, the reconstruction
and presentation of the Neolithic settlement of Barnhouse (Richards 2005).
This has a direct
impact on tourism (e.g. 70,000 per annum) [5.6 & 5.10].
Elements of Richards' field project (Barnhouse and Maeshowe) underpinned
the successful award
of UNESCO World Heritage listed status for the series of sites that form the
Heart of Neolithic
Orkney (see 3.2, 3.4, 3.5) [5.8]. Subsequently, Richards has
taken a key advisory role in the public
interpretation and presentation of the World Heritage monuments, and his
heavily in Historic Scotland Ranger training, guide books and
interpretation panels [5.10]. Further
impact of research on heritage presentation and interpretation was
achieved through membership
of the UNESCO WHS research committee (2000-13). In this capacity Richards
has provided a
leading role in determining the research priorities and presentational
components of the Heart of
Neolithic Orkney WHS [5.10].
The third area of impact is the utilization of Richards' research as key
evidence in the Merranblo
windfarm inquiry, held in Stromness (January 2008) [5.2, 5.3 and 5.7]. The
was to be positioned on a hilltop overlooking the WHS. Richards research
on the relationship
between landscape and monuments in the WHS provided pivotal evidence
development, particularly in the context of `setting', `the definition
of `setting'... was a central
question considered by the inquiry', and `this is where Richards'
research proved crucial, because
the windfarm development team proposed an entirely different notion of
`setting' with alternative
criteria' (ibid) [5.2].
Richards was to be the archaeological expert witness, (but was
undertaking fieldwork on Easter
Island), The Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Glasgow assumed
this role and drawing
on Richards' research argued the case against the development, `There
is no doubt in my mind
that the research and theories developed by Prof Richards.... played a
fundamental role in the final
decision of the Reporter' [5.3]. This judgement also provided the
basis for a new OIC Planning
Policy concerning wind-farm development in Orkney [5.5].
The final impact concerns public discourse. Throughout the period of
research Richards has given
regular public lectures throughout Europe and across Orkney. Also,
numerous radio (local BBC
and national BBC — Radio 4) and television broadcasts on Orcadian
archaeology. This is
supplemented by numerous columns [5.9] in the Orcadian, `the
research has involved sustained
collaboration with the local media, archaeological groups and the Orkney
public in general — to
date, he has written six articles and been a contributor to over 40 in
the past decade' [5.1]. As a
policy, Richards has always worked with local museums and communities, `from
the start Richards
viewed his excavations as work within the community which should always
involve local people
[5.4], `Professor Richards' keenness to share his knowledge with the
people of Orkney was, and
remains, clearly evident in his willingness to engage with the local
community' [5.1]. Growing local
appreciation of archaeological heritage is more difficult to define or
quantify. One measure is the
instigation of archaeological funding by OIC who award £40,000 annually An
awareness also translates into a more educated public who feel they have a
vested interest in their
own heritage. Again this can be measured in the proportional increase of
archaeological sites reported to the Regional Archaeologist [5.5]. Another
measure is community
involvement in archaeological projects to such an extent that stakeholders
(e.g. local farmers)
actually provide funds for C14 dates. Overall, Richards' research has had
a huge effect on the
local awareness of heritage and its presentation and cultural value.
Sources to corroborate the impact
All claims referenced in the text.
5.1 Letter from the Editor of the Orcadian newspaper
5.2 Letter from the Former Chair and Founding Member of Orkney Skyline
5.3 Letter from the Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Glasgow
5.4 Letter from the Exhibitions Officer, Orkney Island Council
5.5 Letter from the County Archaeologist, Orkney Island Council
Documents submitted to the Public Merranblo Wind Farm Inquiry,
5.6 APL/G/07 Richards, C. (ed) 2005. Dwelling among the Monuments: the
Neolithic village of
Barnhouse, Maeshowe passage grave and surrounding monuments at Stenness,
McDonald Institute Research Monograph, Cambridge.
5.7 Project 289 (Merranblo) Precognition of Stephen Carter BSc, PhD
(2008, pp 16, 17, 19, 20)
and Project 289 (Merranblo) Precognition of Dr Kenneth Brophy (Sections
2.3; 3.3; 5.1; 6 )
5.8 Historic Scotland (1999) Nomination of Neolithic Orkney for inclusion
in the World heritage
List. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland — supporting the impact of Richards
contribution to the
5.9 The Orcadian newspaper (editions 2008 - 13)
5.10 Historic Scotland 2006. Maeshowe and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.