The University of the Highlands and Islands has announced the establishment of its new Archaeology Institute. Centred in the heart of the rich and diverse archaeological heritage of the region, the Institute aims to advance our understanding of the historic environment through the creation, interpretation and dissemination of archaeological knowledge.

Growing from the original Archaeology Department at Orkney College UHI and also including teaching staff based in Shetland and the Western Isles, the Institute will be the first of its kind in Scotland. It aims to provide a world-class hub in the Highlands and Islands for innovative archaeological research, university education and lifelong learning in outstanding heritage environments. The Robertson Trust, a charitable organisation which funds projects around Scotland, is supporting a new community outreach archaeologist and specialist equipment in the Institute. Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Orkney Islands Council are also backing the development.

“Our new Institute will further establish us at the forefront of archaeological research and education, not just in our area, but in Scotland and internationally,” said Professor Clive Mulholland, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

“We want to create a vibrant international centre of excellence that aims to support local, regional and global communities to explore and promote their heritage. The forward thinking and interdisciplinary approaches to archaeological and heritage research and the worldwide links and collaborations already established by our excellent teaching and research staff have allowed us to take this bold step and make our mark on a worldwide stage.”

The commercial and applied research unit of the Institute, the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), provides professional archaeological and heritage services to northern Scotland. Institute staff believe the combination of expertise in both consultancy and research will give students an unparalleled experience of practical and applied archaeology and help to facilitate world class research.

“I am delighted to see the establishment of the Archaeology Institute and am particularly pleased that staff of Orkney College UHI have played such a key role in bringing it about,” explained Orkney College UHI principal, Dr Bill Ross.

“The Highlands and Islands, and Orkney in particular, have some of the finest archaeology in Europe and I think it is very fitting that archaeological research and teaching can have a strong lead from within the region.”

The Highlands and Islands is known to have a rich and diverse archaeological heritage from globally recognised Neolithic stone settlements, tombs and stone circles; Iron Age brochs, Pictish and Viking settlements and burials to historical archaeology from events such as the Clearances and the First and Second World Wars. The Institute carries out internationally significant research in the Highlands and Islands region and its staff also work much further afield too – with current research projects taking place in Easter Island, Nepal and Tanzania.