Landscapes of Production: Understanding the Landscape Context of Felsite Production in Neolithic Shetland
This Landscapes of Production Project (LPP) will build on work by the North Roe Felsite Project (NRFP), undertaken between 2013 - 2017, which investigated felsite extraction, manufacture, use and deposition in Neolithic Shetland. Felsite is a visually distinctive blue-green stone used to create polished stone axes and Shetland knives. The NRFP conducted intensive geological survey of North Roe, conducted excavations at two quarry sites and catalogued over 600 tools from collections across the archipelago and the UK.
Survey work has been continued by Archaeology Shetland, a local community archaeology group, who have recorded a wide range of archaeological features in close proximity to the quarries. The LPP will explore the wider archaeological landscape of North Roe, providing a social context to the felsite quarry sites and later stages of felsite tool production.
More specifically, the project will establish a chronology for stone-built structures situated in close proximity to Neolithic felsite quarries on North Roe (Figure 1 A and B), and explore the organisation of tool exploitation and manufacture in the landscape. North Roe is a complex archaeological landscape with evidence of activity throughout the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Recent material from excavations at the quarries have yielded early to middle Neolithic dates, and a similar date is hypothesised for the structures based on their situation below the peat, their similarity to structures elsewhere on Shetland, and due to the presence of felsite in the surviving walls. The project will focus on four structures in close proximity to felsite dykes and quarries on North Roe. These structures are substantial, and in some cases multi-roomed, stone constructions situated at high elevations in exposed landscapes. They are also very well preserved.
Impact of Research
The project is closely aligned to key research questions from the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) (www.scottishheritagehub.com). Specifically, it will have an impact on understanding a largely understudied period of prehistory in Shetland, exploring questions of land-use, settlement and island adaptation.
Cooney, G., Megarry, W., Markham, M., Gilhooly, B., O’Neill, B., Gaffrey, J., Sands, R., Nyland, A., Ballin, T B, Murray, J. and Sheridan, J A. (2019) Tangled up in blue: the role of riebeckite felsite in Neolithic Shetland. In: Mining and quarrying in Neolithic Europe: A social perspective. Neolithic Studies Group Seminar Papers (16). Oxbow, Oxford, pp. 49-65.
Megarry, W.; Graham, C.; Gilhooly, B.; O’Neill, B.; Sands, R.; Nyland, A.; Cooney, G. (2018) Debitage and Drones: Classifying and Characterising Neolithic Stone Tool Production in the Shetland Islands Using High Resolution Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Imagery. Drones 2, 12.
The project includes a collaborative research team from Queen's University Belfast (QUB), University College Dublin (UCD) and Archaeology Shetland:
Hazel Mosley, QUB https://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/persons/hazel-mosley
Prof Gabriel Cooney, University College Dublin https://people.ucd.ie/gabriel.cooney
Archaeology Shetland https://www.archaeologyshetland.org/
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 11.4: Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage