Brough of Birsay, Orkney
Emeritus Professor Christopher D Morris, University of Glasgow
Early Pictish – Late Norse / Medieval
Volume 3 of the Birsay Bay Project on The Brough of Birsay Investigations 1955-2014 was completed in late 2017 and is currently proceeding towards publication as a monograph by Historic Environment Scotland in their in-house series. Volume 1 (Morris 1989) recorded the earliest work on the site by Sir Henry Dryden in the mid 19th century on the church and churchyard, followed by Volume 2 (Morris 1996) with a detailed publication of the work carried out under the direction of Dr J S Richardson in the 1930s. The new volume has a comprehensive account based on the archives in both Edinburgh and Swindon of the work undertaken by Dr Ralegh Radford and Mr Stewart Cruden between 1955 and 1964. It then has a detailed account of the excavations carried out on the site under the direction of the author between 1974 and 1981, together with a rescue excavation in 1993 and a geophysical survey carried out across the site in 2007 by Drs Susan Ovenden and David Griffiths. As well as artefactual studies by numerous specialists co-ordinated by Dr Colleen Batey and palaeobiological studies co-ordinated by Mr James Rackham, specific studies are presented of metallurigal material by Dr Gerry McDonnell, ogham inscriptions (including one found during the excavations) by Dr Katherine Forsyth, and a gilt-bronze mount of Insular origin by Ms Olwyn Owen. A re-analysis of all C-14 dates from sites in the Birsay Bay area is presented and discussed by Dr Zoe Outram, and a re-assessment of the architecture of the church and related buildings by Dr Richard Fawcett.
The final chapter by the author puts the Brough in the overall context of Birsay Bay, Orkney and the wider world between the Pictish and Late Norse/Medieval periods.
Orkney; Brough of Birsay; Pictish settlement; Viking settlement; ogham inscriptions; Norse chapels; runic inscriptions; Earls of Orkney; Orkney Bishopric; Thorfinn; St Magnus
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Cruden, S H 1958 ‘Earl Thorfinn the Mighty and the Brough of Birsay’, in K Eldjárn (ed), Þriðji Vikingafundur. Third Viking Congress, Reykjavík 1956, Reykjavík 1958, 156-62.
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Curle, C L 1974 ‘An Engraved Lead Disc from the Brough at Birsay, Orkney’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 105 (1972-4), 301-7.
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Hunter, J R 1986 Rescue Excavations on the Brough of Birsay 1974-82, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Monograph no 4, Edinburgh.
Hunter, J R and Morris, C D 1981 ‘Recent Excavations at the Brough of Birsay, Orkney’, in H Bekker-Nielsen, P Foote, and O Olsen (eds) Proceedings of the Eighth Viking Congress, Århus 1977, 245-58.
Hunter, J R and Morris, C D 1982 ‘Appendix: Excavation of Room 5, Clifftop Settlement, Brough of Birsay 1973-4’, in Curle 1982, 124-138.
Hunter, J R, Bond, J M and Smith, A N 1993 ‘Some Aspects of Early Viking Settlement in Orkney’, in Batey, C E, Jesch, J and Morris, C D (eds) The Viking Age in Caithness, Orkney and the North Atlantic, Edinburgh 1993, 272-284.
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Morris, C D 1989 The Birsay Bay Project Volume I. Coastal Sites beside the Brough Road, Birsay, Orkney. Excavations, 1976-1982, University of Durham, Department of Archaeology Monograph Series 1, Durham [with contributions from C E Batey, N Emery, D J Rackham, and others].
Morris, C D 1990 Church and Monastery in the Far North: An Archaeological Re-evaluation, The Jarrow Lecture 1989, Jarrow 1990, 43 pp, including 6 figures. Reprinted in Bede and his World. The Jarrow Lectures, Volume II 1978-1993, Aldershot 1994, 807-848.
Morris, C D 1993b ‘The Birsay Bay Project: A Résumé’, in Batey, Jesch and Morris (eds) 1993, 285-307.
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Morris, C D 1996a The Birsay Bay Project Volume 2. Sites in Birsay Village and on the Brough of Birsay, Orkney, University of Durham, Department of Archaeology Monograph Series 2, Durham [with contributions from B Ballin Smith, J W Barber, C E Batey, N Emery, D J Rackham, and others].
Morris, C D 2017 ‘Looking at, and for, inscribed stones: A note from the Brough of Birsay, Orkney’, in E Cambridge and J Hawkes (eds) Crossing Boundaries. Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Art, Material Culture, Language and Literature of the Early Medieval World, Oxford, 185-194
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