Lewis expert to face ‘bear necessities’ in Viking research project

Lewis archaeologist and Viking expert Dr Mary MacLeod Rivett will be working on a project in Canada this summer – where the threat of polar bear attack is never far away!

But Dr Macleod Rivett, based at Lews Castle College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, says this is the only “down side” to an exciting project exploring Cape Tanfield on Baffin Island in Arctic Northern Canada.

An expert in North Atlantic Viking settlements, Dr MacLeod Rivett is joining the Helluland Archaeology Project at Cape Tanfield, Baffin Island, on a site occupied over 1000 years ago by Paleo-Eskimos.

Archaeological excavations have provided evidence of possible long-term links between these people and the Scandinavian Viking colonies in the Arctic. Helluland was the Viking name for a newly-discovered area of the American continent.

Dr MacLeod Rivett, who will be teaching on the new University of the Highlands and Islands undergraduate honours degree in archaeology starting in September this year, will be working with Dr Pat Sutherland, an archaeologist from the Canadian Museum of Civilisation in Ottawa.

The team working on the excavation will be camping at the site for six weeks – surrounded by a heavy electric fence to protect staff from polar bears which have become increasingly bold in recent years.

Dr MacLeod Rivett, who lives in Carloway, Isle of Lewis, said: “I’m not put off! I am delighted to be taking part in such an important international research project which will be highly significant in the development of our understanding of Viking exploration, and their relations with some of the indigenous peoples they encountered.”

The new archaeology degree is available to study at Lews Castle College UHI and campuses at Argyll; Dingwall; Inverness; Moray; North Highland; Orkney; Perth; Shetland, and West Highland. It will cover subjects including archaeological method and theory; digital heritage; excavation skills; past and present sustainability, and archaeology and interpretation. Among the options for years three and four are studies in Viking and Norse archaeology in the North Atlantic; maritime archaeology; geophysics and remote sensing, and the Iron Age of Scotland.

In years one and two, students can also choose modules from the university’s history, Scottish cultural studies, and environmental sciences degrees. Part-time study is also available.

Students can also study joint honours degrees with environmental studies or Scottish history.

For further information, see www.uhi.ac.uk