North Ronaldsay Project (2010)

This interdisciplinary project focused on the north-eastern tip of North Ronaldsay, Orkney, at Dennis Ness. An archaeological walkover survey of the ‘outfield’ area outside the sheep dyke from Dennis Head to Point of Sinsoss provided the basis for this exploration. This exposed place is home to two lighthouses, including the iconic 18th-century Dennis Head Lighthouse. The New Lighthouse (1854) has a derelict foghorn that faces the boiling North Atlantic. These maritime beacons are set within a complex mosaic of enclosures and plantiecrues that attest to the recent use of the area for growing kale and sheep husbandry. North Ronaldsay has a communal flock of seaweed eating sheep which are kept on the shore by a stone dyke. Sheep punding on the island is one of the last examples of communal farming in Northern Europe. The Dennis Ness area is also home to a rich tapestry of folklore and oral history. Trolla vatn (loch of the trolls) is reputed to be bottomless, and one of the homes of the fairies, Warto o’ Versabreck, is situated where the New Lighthouse stands. There is a complex of dykes, enclosures and structures of the last few hundred years along with the more subtle prehistoric dykes that run underneath.

The project culminated in a small exhibition at The Manse, North Ronaldsay. Guilietta Verdon-Roe also had her exhibition ‘as you are’ documenting the land and people of North Ronaldsay.

Ordnance Survey 1882, LXXIII.1

Site 17. Beach Stone

Planticrues and enclosures

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Exhibition spaceAerial photo & lichenSea LandSinksSite 17 (stone and drawing)Site 17

Site 17

Team members:

Daniel Lee (archaeologist)

Antonia Thomas (archaeologist)

Helga Tulloch (ethnologist/artist)

Rebecca Marr (photographer)

Mark Jenkins (filmmaker)

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