Hogboon Investigation

The Archaeology of a Myth: Excavating a Hogboon's Home

"Hogboons take their name from the old Norse 'Haug Bui' meaning mound dweller.  They lived in a mound next to a house, and could bring luck to a family if they were treated with respect.  Offerings of food were left on the mound for the benefit of the Hogboon.  They seem to have a particular tie with one specific family, leaving their mounds to follow them to a new home." 
                                                                                                                                (Tom Muir 1998, XII)                                                                                                                          

The Archaeology Of A Myth

Archaeology and local folklore were combined in this activity.  As the Orcadian storyteller Tom Muir describes above, a Hogboon is a mound dweller who can either bring good or ill luck to the family it belongs to.   Members of the Summer Archaeology Club were asked to step out of reality for one day and consider the possibility that Hogboons exist; and if they did, how could it be proven archaeologically?

For years local people on Rousay suspected that a Hogboon lived in the mound next to Eastaquoy farm.  The children decided to investigate the mound and discover if it had once been the home of a Hogboon.  To do this they used archaeological skills acquired over the summer to survey, excavate, and record the mound.  

Skills used to investigate the Hogboon mound:

  • Plane table survey 
  • Excavation 
  • Photography 
  • Artefact analysis
  • Soil sampling
  • Soil sorting
  • Archaeological drawing
  • Labelling
  • Teamwork

New skills were also developed throughout the day, such as public speaking.  The investigation was also expressed in creative and artistic forms: imaginative drawings of what the Hogboon might of looked like and memory maps of the journey to Eastaquoy were created.  Local artist Rebecca Marr was on site to encourage and inspire the children, and local film maker Mark Jenkins documented the entire investigation.

To watch the documentary of the Hogboon Mound Investigation click here, or use the Film tab in the main menu.

Hogboon Folklore Workshop


Muir, T. (1998) The Mermaid Bride and other Orkney folk tales.  The Orcadian Limited.