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Dr Steve Dockrill

PositionSenior Lecturer in Archaeology
LocationK9, Richmond building
DepartmentSchool of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences
Telephone+44 (0) 1274 235564

Research Interests (key words only)

North Atlantic Britain, Orkney, Shetland, Neolithic, Iron Age, Viking, Chronology, Palaeoeconomy, Palaeosols, Power, Sustainability


Steve is a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Bradford, where his research has focused on the archaeology of North Atlantic Britain.

He is an active member of two international research collaboratives, the North Atlantic Biocultural Organisation (NABO) and the Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance (GHEA), in 2010 he became Adjunct Research Professor for the City University of New York (CUNY).  Dockrill was an invited member of the NABO International Polar Year research group: Long Term Human Ecodynamics in the Norse North Atlantic: cases of sustainability, survival, and collapse (2007-2010; funded by the US National Science Foundation). He has lectured widely on his research, both nationally and internationally, within the context of these research groups (most recently he was invited to contribute a paper at the 2012 Society of American Archaeologist’s conference held in Memphis). In 2008 Dockrill co-organised the NABO conference Archaeological Futures: A Research Agenda for the North Atlantic held in Bradford. Since 1984 he has led field programmes in Orkney, Shetland and the Faroe Islands. These include Tofts Ness, Sanday, Orkney (1984-88), South Nesting (1991-1994).

Since 1995 Steve has directed excavations at Old Scatness (an Iron Age village) in collaboration with the Shetland Amenity Trust, winning the Virgin Award for best Public Presentation of Archaeology. The site has featured in the national press, on national television and radio documentaries (e.g. ‘Mysteries of the Landscape’ and ‘Science Now’). Steve is currently Directing the Gateway to the Atlantic Project an international research based field school with Dr Julie Bond investigating the archaeology of the Island of Rousay, Orkney.

Study History

Steve trained as a Field Archaeologist at Weymouth (1975-7; Cert in Pract. Arch.) and worked in professional archaeology before joining Archaeological Sciences in 1978, After the completion of an MPhil degree(University of Bradford) in 1993, he was appointed as an academic, first as Experimental Officer and in 1995 as Lecturer in Archaeology. and then as a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology.

Dockrill gained his PhD (Settlement and Landscape in the Northern Isles; a Multidisciplinary Approach. Archaeological research into long term settlements and their associated arable fields from the Neolithic to the Norse periods; University of Bradford) in 2013

Professional Activities

  • MIFA (1984)
  • Invited Member of the Editorial Board The Journal of the North Atlantic
  • Invited Member of the Editorial Committee Archaeologica Islandica
  • Conference Organiser NABO 2008: Archaeological Futures: A Research Agenda for the North Atlantic
  • Elected Member of the Society of Antiquaries of London (2007)
  • Adjunct Research Professor 2010 (Graduate School, CUNY)

Research Areas

Steve’s current research focuses on the human adaptation, settlement sustainability and the manifestation of power (including development of social hierarchies) in North Atlantic Britain. This research is lead by field investigation. Three multi-period settlement mounds, Tofts Ness, Old Scatness and Jarlshof are integral to this research.

The investigation of a Viking to Late Norse settlement mound on Sandoy, Faroes forms the focus for future field research in the North Atlantic.

Key to the research outlined above is an understanding of the economy of these settlements. Steve sees intensive management of barley as a means to maximise yield returns within a marginal environment. Barley is a storable commodity and has an enhanced economic value where the risk of failure is greater. The creation of surplus within good years is seen as a mechanism within a mixed economy to provide site sustainability, which enables the development of settlements with long chronologies (Dockrill and Batt, 2004). Control of surplus barley is seen by Steve as a means for the controlling elite to reinforce status and power (Dockrill, 2002 and Dockrill and Batt, 2004). A theoretical model for sustainability (Dockrill and Bond 2009) presented in JONA examines the intensive arable management together with the economic data and reflects on the archaeological evidence for intensive barley production and the other components of the mixed economy.

Research at Old Scatness examines a status site that has a continuity of wealth through the Iron Age to the Viking period (Dockrill et al. 2010). A typological development of building forms developed by Dockrill links the aisled wheelhouses of the Western Isles to the later Jarlshof wheelhouses in Shetland. The Old Scatness Iron Age buildings demonstrate a change from large buildings indicative of communal space to small cellular buildings suggestive of private space.

This development is not seen as a loss of status but rather as being indicative of social change and the importance of the individual (Dockrill, 2003 & (Dockrill et al. 2010)).

The reassessment of the chronology of the broch in North Atlantic Britain through the scientific dating programme at Old Scatness (Dockrill et al. 2006) supports an indigenous model of broch development but more importantly it requires a new explanation for the development of broch structures and how this new chronology interacts with events occurring elsewhere in Britain (Dockrill et al. forthcoming).

The longevity of chronologies presented by these sites allows issues of economic, cultural and social change (and continuity) to be investigated together with themes such as contact. The Tofts Ness monograph (Dockrill et al. 2007) explores these issues within the context of a settlement at the poorer end of the social spectrum both in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age and in the Early Iron Age.


  • Bond, J.M. and Dockrill, S.J. 2013. Excavations at Upper House, Underhoull. In Turner, V.E., Bond, J.M. and Larson, A.-C. (eds.). Excavation and Survey in Northern Shetland 2006-2010. Viking Unst. Lerwick: Shetland Heritage Publications. 156-165
  • Dockrill, S.J., Bond, J.M., Turner, V.E., Brown, L.D., Bashford, D.J, Cussans, J.E. and Nicholson, R.A. 2010. Excavations at Old Scatness, Shetland Volume 1: The Pictish Village and Viking Settlement. Lerwick: Shetland Heritage Publications
  • Outram, Z., Batt, C.M., Rhodes, E.J. and Dockrill, S.J. 2010. The integration of Chronological and archaeological information to date building construction: an example from Shetland, Scotland, UK. Journal or Archaeological Sciences 37: 2821-2830
  • Dockrill, S.J. and Bond, J.M. 2009. Sustainability and Resilience in Prehistoric North Atlantic Britain: The Importance of a Mixed Palaeoeconomic System. Journal of the North Atlantic 2(1): 33-50
  • Guttmann, E.B., Simpson, I.A., Nielsen, N. and Dockrill, S.J. 2008. Anthrosols in Iron Age Shetland: implications for arable and economic activity. Geoarchaeology 23(6): 799–823
  • Dockrill, S. J., J. M. Bond, R. Nicholson & A. Smith 2007. Tofts Ness: An island landscape through 3000 years of Prehistory Orcadian. Investigations on Sanday, Orkney Vol 2 Edinburgh: Historic Scotland
  • Dockrill, S. J., J. M. Bond, V. E. Turner & L. D. Brown 2007. Old Scatness Excavation Manual: A Case Study in Archaeological Recording. Lerwick: Shetland Amenity Trust
  • Dockrill, S. J., C. M. Batt & Z. Outram 2006. Time and place: a new chronology for the origin of the broch based on the scientific dating programme at the Old Scatness Broch, Shetland. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 136: 89-110
  • Guttmann, E. B., I. A. Simpson, D. A. Davidson & S. J. Dockrill 2006. The management of arable land from prehistory to the present: case studies from the Northern Isles of Scotland. Geoarchaeology 21: 61-92
  • Schmidt, A., T. Sutherland & S. Dockrill 2006. Inside the mound: geophysical surveys of the Scatness Iron-age Broch, Shetland. In R. E. Jones and L. Sharpe (ed.) Going over old ground: British Archaeological Reports British Series 416. 225-230. Oxford: Archaeopress
  • Dockrill, S. J., J. M. Bond & C. M. Batt 2005. Old Scatness: The First Millennium AD. In V. E. Turner (ed.) Tall Stories? Broch Studies, Past Present and Future: 52-65. Oxford: Oxbow
  • Guttmann, E. B., S. J. Dockrill & I. A. Simpson 2005. Arable agriculture in prehistory: new evidence from soils in the Northern Isles. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 134: 53-64
  • Turner, V. E., S. J. Dockrill & J. M. Bond 2005. Viking settlement in an Iron Age Village; Old Scatness, Shetland. In A. Mortensen and S. V. Arge (ed.) Viking and Norse in the North Atlantic: 245-249. Tórshavn: Føroya Fródskaparfelag
  • Turner, V. E., R. A. Nicholson, S. J. Dockrill & J. M. Bond 2005. Tall Stories? 2 Millennia of Brochs. Lerwick: Shetland Amenity Trust
  • Dockrill, S. J. & C. M. Batt 2004. Power over time: an overview of the Old Scatness Broch Excavations. In R. Housley and G. Coles (ed.) Atlantic Connections and Adaptations: Economies, Environments and Subsistence in the North Atlantic: 128-137. Oxford: Oxbow
  • Forster, A. K., J. Thomas & S. J. Dockrill 2004. 2 Spatial Analysis and Cultural Indicators; Viking settlers at Old Scatness Broch. In J. Hines, A. Lane and M. Redknap (ed.) Land, Sea, and Home: Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph No. 20. 219-233. London: Society for Medieval Archaeology
  • Dockrill, S. J. 2003. Broch, wheelhouse, cell: Redefining the Iron Age in Shetland. In A. Ritchie and J. Downes (ed.) Sea Change - Orkney & Northern Europe in the Late Iron Age and after: 83-94. Brechin: Pinkfoot press
  • Guttmann, E. B. A., I. A. Simpson & S. J. Dockrill 2003. Joined-up archaeology at Old Scatness, Shetland: thin section analysis of the site and hinterland. Environmental Archaeology 8: 17-31
  • Rhodes, E. J., C. Bronk Ramsey, Z. Outram, C. Batt, L. Willis, S. Dockrill & J. Bond 2003. Bayesian methods applied to the interpretation of multiple OSL dates: high precision sediment ages from Old Scatness Broch excavations. Shetland Isles Quaternary Science Reviews 22: 1231-1244
  • Dockrill, S. J. 2002. Brochs, economy and power. In B. Ballin Smith and I. Banks (ed.) The Shadow Of The Brochs: The Iron Age In Scotland: 153-162. Stroud: Tempus
  • Horsley, T. J. & S. J. Dockrill 2002. A preliminary assessment of the use of routine geophysical techniques for the location, characterisation and interpretation of buried archaeology in Iceland. Archaeologica Islandica 2: 10-33
  • Burbridge, C. I., C. M. Batt, I. Bailiff, S. M. Barnett & S. J. Dockrill 2001. The potential for dating the Old Scatness Site, Shetland by Optically Stimulated Luminescence. Archaeometry 43: 589-596

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