Scotland’s Island Research Framework for Archaeology (SIRFA) Symposium, Western Isles 7th – 11th January 2019
As an early career researcher with a particular interest in the prehistory of the Western Isles of Scotland, I was very grateful to receive a Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland ECR Bursary to enable me to attend the Scottish Islands Research Framework for Archaeology (SIRFA) opening symposium on North Uist in January 2019. My attendance at the symposium provided we with an excellent opportunity to connect with like-minded researchers and professionals and to gain further insights into the key research undertaken by other researchers in the region, as well as to contribute my knowledge to the regional research agenda. It was also great to be given the chance to visit some of the fantastic archaeology on North Uist with knowledgeable local experts.
The main thematic and period-based sessions that I attended at the symposium were the Economy and Subsistence (chairs: Jacqui Mulville, Cardiff University and Julie Gibson, Orkney Islands Council) and Early Prehistory (Chairs: Caroline Wickham-Jones, University of Aberdeen and Alison Sheridan, National Museums of Scotland) sessions. Both sessions provided stimulating and useful discussion, and as an archaeobotanist specialising in Mesolithic-Neolithic archaeology in Scotland, I was able to contribute information and knowledge from my research into the discussions in these sessions. As part of my doctoral research, I co-directed small-scale excavations of the only known Mesolithic sites in the Western Isles, at Northton and Temple Bay on Harris and at Tràigh na Beirigh on Lewis (co-director Prof. Mike Church, Durham University, UK), and I am currently undertaking post-doctoral research on the Mesolithic plant remains from the site at Northton as part of a University College Dublin (PI: Prof. Graeme Warren, UCD, Ireland) funded project to investigate the importance of edible roots and tubers in hunter-gatherer subsistence. It was great to be able to feed this information into the agenda, and to discuss ways forward for locating additional Mesolithic sites in the Western Isles with other researchers. This is a key issue, given the extreme variety of Mesolithic sites in the Western Isles, and presents a challenge for archaeologists to locate sites where coastal change, peat and machair, as well as later archaeology has hidden the ephemeral traces of hunter-gatherer settlement and subsistence.
Overall it was a very enjoyable and useful conference, and I look forward to contributing further to Scottish Islands Research Framework for Archaeology as it progresses.
Rosie Bishop FSA Scot, Post-doctoral Researcher, UCD School of Archaeology