Survey at Earl's Bu, Orphir, Orkney 1989-91: geophysical work on a Late Norse Estate Complex
Geophysical Survey, Midden, Round Church, Burnt Mounds, Horizontal Mill
Orphir; Orkney; NGR: HY 3346 0442
The various campaigns of geophysical survey at The Earl's Bu and its environs have added to the body of information known about the site (the early 12th-century seat of Earl Haakon Paulsson, with a round church, a large hall, a Late Norse midden and an earlier horizontal mill), confirming both considerable disturbance and potential structural traces. A separate print publication (Batey 2003), to which this particular SAIR is an adjunct, reviews the interventions made at the site up to the late 1930s.
In some cases, the surveys have raised more questions than they have answered, particularly about some putative burnt mounds (or stone-dense midden spreads or similar anomalies). The geophysical survey has also indicated a number of features which may represent early excavation trenches. While it is often impossible to be definitive in the interpretation of geophysical anomalies, especially in Scottish contexts where geological conditions can be unhelpful in the application of archaeological geophysical survey, interpretation must be an informed process. In the case of the environs of the Earl's Bu, if it were not for the excavations that were being run concurrently with the surveys, and the excellent and rapidly-published research of others working in the Northern Isles, that interpretative process would have been far more difficult. The report concludes that more excavation of geophysical anomalies is required; the next logical stage is to excavate prior to the laying-out of the site for comprehension by the visiting public.