Prof Jane Downes

Archaeology Institute
Orkney College UHI
KW15 1LX
tel: +44 (0)1856 569 320
mob: 44 (0)7919 985 106

Available to talk to the media about

  • Archaeology and Heritage - Orkney, Highlands and Islands, Scotland, UK
  • Prehistory: Neolithic; Bronze Age; Iron Age
  • Archaeology, heritage and sustainable development (eg renewable energy, tourism)
  • Human burials and prehistoric burial rites
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Archaeological landscapes

In these languages



Professor Downes graduated in 1984 from Manchester University with BA Hons in Ancient History and Archaeology, and went to work on the East Anglian Fens as a Field Officer for Fenland Archaeological Trust where she worked on waterlogged sites such as Flag Fen.

After several years on the Fens she became a freelance archaeologist working among other places in France, before moving to Glasgow University where she was a Research Assistant, the Project Officer and Project Manager for GUARD. During this time she developed her research on cremation, focusing on Bronze Age burial mounds in Orkney, and undertaking ethnoarchaeological field study in Bali.

She moved to Sheffield University to take the post of Assistant Director of ARCUS, managing commercial projects and continuing her research. In 1999 she took up the post of Lecturer in Orkney College UHI and established the Masters programme in Archaeological Practice. She subsequently became Senior Lecturer and in 2014 was made a Professor. Professor Downes is now Director of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, having established ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology), a successful commercial and research unit, and latterly ORCA Marine.

She has also established a full undergraduate programme as BA Hons Archaeology, starting 2011. She continues fieldwork in Orkney undertaking a range of excavations, and is involved in research in Easter Island.

Current research

Professor Downes is currently working on publications of Bronze Age burial sites, analysis of Iron Age underground chamber Mine Howe; and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site geophysical survey. Her current fieldwork: Gateway to the Atlantic NABO excavation on Rousay Orkney Neolithic/ Iron Age/ Pictish/ Viking/ post-medieval sites (collaboration with Bradford University and CUNY); fieldwork on Easter Island (collaboration with UCL, Manchester University, Bournemouth University); Bronze Age settlement at Cata Sand, Orkney (collaboration with Manchester University and University of Central Lancashire).

Research groups and interests

  • Member of the Institute for Archaeology
  • Chair of Scottish Archaeological Research Framework Bronze Age Panel
  • Chair of Orkney World Heritage Site Research Committee
  • Trustee of Stromness Museum
  • Fellow Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

Selected publications


2005 (co-editors S. M. Foster and C. R. Wickham Jones) The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. Research Agenda. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland

2003 (co-editor A. Ritchie) Sea Change: Orkney and Northern Europe in the later Iron Age AD 300-800. Balvinie: The Pinkfoot Press.

2000 (co-author R. Lamb) Sumburgh Airport: the archaeology of later prehistoric houses in Shetland Oxford: Oxbow Monograph

1999 (co-editor T. Pollard) The Loved Body's Corruption: archaeological contributions to the study of human mortality. Glasgow: Cruithne Press
Selected journal papers and book chapters

2010 (with R. Jones, A. Challands, C. French, N. Card and C. Richards) ‘Exploring the location and function of a Late Neolithic house at Crossiecrown, Orkney by geophysical, geochemical and soil micromorphological methods’ Archaeological Prospection Vol. 7, Issue 1, 29-47

2007 (with N. Card, J. Cluett, J. Gater & S. Ovenden) ‘Bringing a landscape to life? – researching and managing the ‘The Heart of Neolithic Orkney’ World Heritage Site’ in Cooney, G. (ed) The Archaeology Of World Heritage World Archaeology Vol. 39 No. 3

2002 (with A. Badcock) ‘Excavation of Iron Age burials at An Corran, Boreray, Outer Hebrides’ Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol 130, 197-223.

2001 (with M. J. Bunting and R. Tipping) Anthropogenic pollen assemblages from a Bronze Age cemetery at Linga Fiold, West Mainland, Orkney Journal of Archaeological Science Vol. 28, 487-500.

2001 The investigation of a Bronze Age cairnfield and later buildings at Fall Kneesend, Clydesdale, Scottish Archaeological Journal Vol. 23 (1), 33-66.

2011 (with A Thomas) ‘Where mythical space lies: land ownership versus land use in the northern Bronze Age’ in M. Relaki & D Catapoti (eds) Land Matters: Analytical limitations and potential in archaeological studies of land ownership. Routledge.

2009 ‘The construction of barrows in Bronze Age Orkney – an ‘assuagement of guilt’?’ in M. J. Allen, N. Sharples & T. O’Connor (eds) Land and People: papers in memory of John G. Evans. Prehistoric Society Research Paper 2,126-135

2007 ‘Cultural Environments’ and ‘Case Study 6.2; Orkney World Heritage Site’ in Papageorgiou, F. European Academy for Sustainable Rural Development Thematic Guide 6: Culture and Sustainable Rural Development. Athens: Euracademy Association, pps 9-10 & 56.

2007 (with N. Card, J. Cluett, J. Gater & S. Ovenden) ‘The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site – building a landscape…’ in Larsson, M. and Parker Pearson M. (eds) From the Baltic to Stonehenge: living with Cultural Diversity in the Third Millennium BC British Archaeological Reports

2005 (with C. Richards) in Richards, C. (ed.) Dwelling among the monuments: An excavation of the Neolithic village of Barnhouse, Maeshowe passage grave and surrounding monuments at Stenness, Orkney. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge, 57-126.

2004 in French, C. and Pryor, F. Archaeology and Environment of the Etton Landscape East Anglian Report No. 109, 30-34

2003 (with N. Card) Mine Howe – the significance of space and place in the Iron Age in Downes, J. and Ritchie, A. (eds) Sea Change: Orkney and Northern Europe in the Later Iron Age

2000 (with C. Richards) Excavating the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of Orkney: Recognition and Interpretation in the Field in Rithcie, A. (ed.) Neolithic Orkney in its European Context. McDonald Institute Monograph, 159-168.

2000 in J. C. Barrett, P. W. Freeman and A. Woodward Cadbury Castle Somerset: the later prehistoric and early historic archaeology English Heritage Archaeological Report 20; 153, 203, 291-298.