Scotland’s Island Research Framework for Archaeology (SIRFA) Symposium, Western Isles 7th – 11th January 2019
I was very grateful for the opportunity to attend the SIRFA symposium this year. This is only the second such event I have attended, and I was struck by the contrast. Rather than a typical conference where academics present papers or posters on their current work, this symposium was an occasion wherein researchers of varying degrees of experience could discuss the current lay of the land and identify gaps in the current research. As I am just now embarking on the first year of my PhD (which will primarily cover Orkney and Shetland during the Bronze and Iron Ages) I didn’t feel that I had much to contribute yet, but it was helpful to hear more experienced academics discuss these issues. Being aware of areas which require further scholarly attention will help guide my work and ensure that it meets the needs of the greater archaeological community.
I was pleased that the event included field trips to various archaeological sites in the area. My MLitt dissertation revolved around a demolished broch and extramural settlement in Orkney, so it was very exciting to visit Mousa and gain a sense of the scale of this form of architecture and envision what my study site might have looked like prior to its destruction. Seeing Mousa gave me renewed respect for the knowledge and skill such architectural endeavors required.
This symposium also afforded downtime to speak with researchers one-on-one. I was able to meet researchers from farther afield who I might not otherwise have had the opportunity to speak to. It was wonderful being able to discuss influential work with the academics in question and ask for guidance with my future studies.
Finally, I’m sure I’m not unique in finding embarking on a PhD a bit daunting. It can feel isolating, especially based as I am in Orkney. It was great to meet with other new PhD students who can be allies on this journey and instill a sense of community to what is otherwise a solitary pursuit.
I am so thankful that the ScARF bursary enabled me to participate in this event. I look forward to attending next year’s symposium on my home turf, and once again engaging with this knowledgeable and supportive network.
Amber Rivers, PhD Candidate, University of the Highlands and Islands