Meet the Team 2017

Nick Card (the BOSS)

I have the great privilege of being in charge of the excavations at the Ness of Brodgar for the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) at the UHI Archaeology Institute.

Having worked in Orcadian archaeology both as student and post graduate and fallen in love with the islands, I permanently moved here circa 25 years ago.

After a chequered career, I returned to archaeology in 1998 just as a department of archaeology was being established, and basically haven’t looked back since.

The Ness is my “sanity clause” that gets out of the office and away from bureaucracy (well most of it!) and out in the field doing what I love most.

Never a day goes by at the Ness when I don’t think what a great honour it is to be excavating here in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney – long may it continue!

Roy Towers

Pottery specialist. I found my first sherd in Scotland, aged nine — it was Roman . . . sorry about that.

I live and work in Orkney and have a history degree and a research MPhil in archaeology from the University of Aberdeen.

I have worked on material from many of the sites in Orkney, from all prehistoric periods, and am one of the very few people on the planet who find Early Bronze Age pot really, really interesting.

The past decade has been spent in the UHI Archaeology Institute lab, in Kirkwall, with mountains of (among others) Ness pot.

How time flies…etc.

At the Ness I assess the pottery as it comes in, partly for post-ex possibilities, shout at tourists twice a day and write the daily site diary.

Best archaeological moment: Discovering how one Ness potter used a new technique to make his/her cordons stick – see Scottish Archaeological Journal, September 2015 issue, for more details – together with Nick.

Worst archaeological moment: Too many, too embarrassing.

Dan Lee

As the Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist for the UHI Archaeology Institute, I have multiple roles at Ness.

I supervise the original part of Trench P, within and around Structure One.

I’m in charge of training the UHI undergraduate and post-graduate students, who will be joining us from across the UHI network.

I’m also running the Digging up the Past events with the Historic Scotland Rangers for young people to try their hand at archaeology.

I have been working at Ness since 2007 and still have to pinch myself when the covers come off and these spectacular buildings are revealed once again!

Bring on those micro-layers in the floors of Structure One.

Anne Mitchell

I’m Anne Mitchell, finds supervisor for the Ness of Brodgar, and, like the rest of the Ness team, I know I’m immensely privileged to be part of this great excavation.

Since March 2017 my job has been funded (17.5 hours a week) via the Ness of Brodgar Trust and LEADER, for 2 years,and that secure funding, instead of ad hoc hours when money allowed, has made an enormous difference both for Nick and myself.

I have a fine team of volunteers on-site for 2017, made up of UHI archaeology student volunteers and more, and we’re all looking forward to what another year brings.

I’m also getting Open Days organised, with Sarah Jane Gibbon and Jeanne Rose , on Sunday, July 16, and August 20 – don’t miss what’s on-site or at Stenness Community School either day. Watch the Dig Diary at for all the info you’ll need to visit us between 5 July and 23 August.

Neil and Rosemary McCance

We live here in Orkney and can see the Ness of Brodgar dig from our house (but would have a better view if the spoil heap was moved!).

We really enjoy helping the dig by entering data from the site through most of the year and writing small finds bags in winter and spring and, possibly, the summer.

Mai Walker

Hi, my name is Mai Walker and I have been excavating at the Ness of Brodgar for eight years now.

I specialise mainly in prehistoric archaeology. My previous work focuses mainly on theory and experimental archaeology.

I have just finished my MA on looking at Colourscapes within the Mesolithic environment of Star Carr and have been working at
Cotswold commercial archaeology for the past nine months.

Hopefully a PhD will be next 🙂

Tansy Branscombe

In June this year I will be graduating from my undergraduate archaeology degree, based at the University of Cambridge.

Next year, I plan on returning to Cambridge to begin a research master’s, investigating shellfish exploitation throughout Croatian prehistory.

My first love will always be the archaeology of Orkney though, where I have had the privilege to live since 2009. Currently, my family are based on the gorgeous island of Papa Westray, happily accompanied by our dogs, chicken, ducks, sheep and alpacas.

This year will be my fifth season at the Ness, since starting back in 2011, and for the most part I am usually based in Structure Twelve.

As ever, I am very keen to get back on site and see what this season has to offer!

Simon Gray

This is my 7th season at the Ness of Brodgar however for the past year I have been up here in Orkney as a Masters student at the UHI Archaeology Institute.

Over the course of the summer, for my placement I will be filming a series of episodic videos from site. These videos will document all the finds and developments of the excavations and will also include interviews with our resident experts, dig team and many other people associated with the Ness.

Finally, I will be speaking with the public and visitors on a daily basis and at our two open days to discuss the progression of the project and the excavations as well as to collect their thoughts and impressions of this magnificent site.

I expect to be mocked for not getting as dirty this year, but it’s still my plan to mud wrestle at some point!

Jo Bourne

In the summer of 2013 I ran away from a publishing job in London to volunteer for six weeks at the Ness – bewitched by the idea of standing buildings with roof tiles.

With four full seasons and two guidebook editions behind me,* I’m still completely in awe of the site – even when I’m barrowing rainwater sponged off tarpaulins.

I wrote my Masters dissertation on prehistoric clothing, so I hope in time we might discover some evidence of what Neolithic Orcadians wore. Their dress would surely have been as sophisticated as their artefacts and buildings.

I look forward to this Summer’s adventures and discoveries, and to working again with the fantastic team at the Ness.

Mike Copper

Hi, I’m Mike and I have been working at the Ness for a number of years, gradually getting sucked further and further into the depths of Structure 10!

As a child I was extremely lucky to be taught by the inspirational teacher and pioneer of archaeology in schools, the late Dr James Dyer, and have had a fascination for prehistory ever since.

I have specialised in Scottish Neolithic pottery since completing a PhD on Hebridean Neolithic ceramics in 2015. My current research is aimed at improving our understanding of Late Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery across Scotland.

When not engaged in excavation or research, I enjoy making reproductions of prehistoric pottery and running on the fells near my home in Yorkshire, while, by way of relaxation, I enjoy nothing better than listening to a bit of extreme metal played at full volume!