The Characters – Artist book by Tonje Boe Birkeland is launched

A new artist book by Tonje Birkeland ‘The Characters I-IV’ has been launched. You can view selected pages on her website. We are thrilled to have our article ‘Walking (in)visible Lines: Archaeologies inbetween‘ re-published inside as part of our on-going collaboration.

This beautifully illustrated book chronicles for the first time all of Tonje’s characters to date; a lifetimes work. Aline Victoria Birkeland, Tuva Tengel, Luelle Magdalon and Anna Aurora Astrup tell their stories, share their diaries, photographs and objects. A diary within a diary, photographs within photographs, imaginary within real, real within imaginary.

“When you come across something, something old, as you touch it, you touch time. The air around your face carries the scent of an era, not of old and fungus but of body, powder, leather, perfume, gasoline: all the things that were there. All these unnecessary necessities that fill our lives, things that filled lives then. As you take hold of the object, you’re afraid of breaking it. Still you don’t want to let go. You inspect and sense: look, stroke, push, bend, turn and tilt. If it is wearable, you put it on. You search for the nearest mirror, making this thing a part of you. If it is too tight you hold in your stomach, you try to breathe carefully to not tear the fragile fabric across your ribs or shoulders, and as the garment finally slips down your chest you bless your small breasts. Or you curse your thighs, as the skirt refuses to be pulled all the way up – it goes no further than your knees – and this moment you swear to never run your miles again. The only mile you want to run right now is the one that can take you back in time. 

Clutching an object, trying it on, finding that it did fit you perfectly, without any struggle. Bending across her leather suitcase, on your knees, looking at your own reflection in an old mirror. Her sunglasses fit your face, rest comfortably on your nose. The rubber band keeps them up without too much pressure on your temples. The frames rest on your cheekbones. Imagine looking through those orange glasses. As you return your own gaze, fiction, reality and your life meet in a reflection.

The tale became my quest, conscience and concern. I would like to say it was my fantasy, dreams and desires, but as this hunt is my work, my artistic practice, it was far more real, physical and bothersome than a dream. One could say it bordered on an obsession.”

(Birkeland 2016, Introduction, THE CHARACTERS I-IV, artist book)


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ØY Papay festival, Papa Westray, Orkney 18-20 Nov 2016

Looking forward to the ØY Papay festival this weekend. You never know, there just might still be spaces to come along! Our talk is on Saturday afternoon:

Experimental mapping and place-marking as contemporary archaeology

This talk will discuss several recent creative archaeological projects that we have been involved in, focussing in particular upon the collaborative residency and mapping work we have undertaken in Papay. Through this we will present our approach to archaeology and explore the role of imagination, experimental practice and collaboration in our contemporary archaeologies of island places.

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CHAT conference was a great success

A big thank you to all those delegates who made the CHAT 2016 conference such a great success. Last weekend saw the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute host CHAT 2016 (Con…

Source: CHAT conference was a great success

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Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney – Book Review

Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney: Process, Temporality and Context. Antonia Thomas. Archaeopress. 2016 Caroline Wickham-Jones kindly wrote a detailed review of Art and Architecture in Neoli…

Source: Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney – Book Review

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CHAT conference in Orkney – RURALITY

Register for CHAT 2016 now!

Registration closes 7th October

Draft programme available on CHAT website

Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory (CHAT) conference 2016

21-23 October


Place: Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland

Venue: Orkney Theatre, The Meadows, Kirkwall

Host: University of the Highlands & Islands Archaeology Institute



Download a registration form and draft programme from the CHAT website ( ). Registration closes 7th October. We have a great line up including themed plenary sessions, film night and 3M_DO discussion. We also have exhibitions, installations and videos and poster presentations in the theatre foyer.

Fieldtrips: Why not get here a bit early?

Thursday 20th (all day) – Alternative tour of Orkney West Mainland (free for delegates, book on registration form)

Friday 21st (am) – Kirkwall walk (free for delegates, no booking required)

Halls accommodation is nearly full, so best check with us first for availability (

Accommodation information: and .

Travel information, getting to Orkney: .

See you here!

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Sea poem

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Map Orkney Month: Imagining archaeological mappings paper published

Brendan Colvert & Rosey Priestman: Forming the pearl, Sanday 01/03/15

Map Orkney Month: Imagining archaeological mappings has just been published in a new open access online journal Livingmaps Review (Vol. 1, No. 1).

This is based on my contribution to the Public Archaeology 2015 project, in which 6 archaeologists and 6 non-archaeologists each had a month long project throughout the year.

Map Orkney Month proposes new forms of creative mapping for archaeology. When volunteers were asked to map their world for a day, the idea was to create a new collaborative map of the Orkney archipelago based on everyday journeys and places; a kind of countywide archaeological walkover survey with a twist. In the process, the project challenged traditional archaeological power structures, destabilised the way archaeological knowledge is produced by using non-specialists, and experimented with new modes of archaeological mapping. In the end, each contribution became its own map without the need for traditional archaeological cartography. In particular, the role of imagination in both traditional and experimental mappings became an important theme. Above all, mappers were challenged to think about archaeology in a new way, and in the process contributed something new to the discipline.

You can access the article free here (just register):

Norna Sinclair: Groatie Buckie beach, Stromness 12/03/15

Helga Tulloch: Feedign the sheep at Cruesbreck, North Ronaldsay 04/03/15

Rowena Baker: Rowing practice, Kirkwall Bay 15/03/15

Many thanks again to all MoM participants, James Dixon, Barbara Brayshay and Antonia Thomas.

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