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Human Bone Found at Orkney’s Neolithic Cathedral, Ness of Brodgar

Human Bone Found at Orkney’s Neolithic Cathedral, Ness of Brodgar


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Archaeologists excavating a vast Neolithic cathedral at Ness of Brodgar on the Scottish island of Orkney have made the rare discovery of a human arm bone . While the discovery of a single bone might seem less than newsworthy, the reason this discovery is special is because human remains are very rare at this ancient site. This excites experts who now have the chance to learn more about the 5,000 year old civilization who built one of the most magnificent stone buildings of the ancient world.

The Discovery at Ness of Brodgar

The bone was found “deliberately” placed beneath the foundations of a wall in a vast stone built temple, and that wall, according to Dr. Jo McKenzie from the University of Bradford speaking to BBC Radio Orkney, was “rebuilt, possibly multiple times, in pre-history”.

Charlie Scovell is an archaeologist from London who is volunteering at the Ness of Brodgar dig over the summer months and it was when he and Dr. McKenzie removed one of the last slabs they saw “a tiny part of what looked suspiciously human”.

Ancient Temples Of The North

The ancient temple at Ness of Brodgar and contemporary sites like Barnhouse Settlement and stone circles like Ring of Brodgar and Standing Stones of Stenness, were all built between 3200 BC and 2500 BC but little is known about the actual monument builders .

As the largest concentration of Neolithic stone structures in Europe, the landscape is collectively known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a name adopted by UNESCO when it proclaimed these four monuments as a World Heritage Site in 1999.

In 2003, situated on a thin strip of land between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray, archaeologists unearthed a series of decorated stone slabs and a massive wall with immense foundations. Within the enclosure, several smaller buildings were found to surround one enormous building and this site is known as Ness of Brodgar, a vast Neolithic religious complex extending over an area of 6.2 acres (2.5 hectares).

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Several ancient buildings were discovered at the Ness of Brodgar site. (S Marshall / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The earliest structures at Ness of Brodgar were built between 3300 and 3200 BC and the earliest evidence of habitation at the more well-known Skara Brae is 3180 BC, so both places were occupied at the same time. Archeologist Caroline Wickham Jones of Aberdeen University calculated that people living at Skara Brae “would have been able to walk to the Ness of Brodgar, watch or take part in ritual activity and walk home within a day”.

A “Vast Neolithic Cathedral”

According to a 2011 Current Archaeology article, excavators in Orkney uncovered the largest stone-built Neolithic non-funerary structures in Britain, which are believed to have been constructed around 2900 BC.

The temple-like Structure Ten, beneath which the arm bone was found, was described as a vast “Neolithic cathedral” serving the north of Scotland. It is surrounded by a paved outer passage measuring 82 feet (25 meters) long by 62 feet (19 meters) wide, with 13 foot (4 meter) thick outer walls. At the temple’s entrance a pair of standing stones lead to a cruciform central chamber measuring 20 feet (6 meters) across.

Archaeologists at work on Structure 10, at the Ness of Brodgar dig. (S Marshall / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Site director Nick Card told the BBC that the woman’s arm bone is being heavily photographed and 3D modeled, and because the bone is human the archaeologists had to report the find to Police Scotland. Card told reporters that the bone “doesn't look like a conventional burial ” and that three years ago another human arm bone was discovered that perhaps came from the same woman for it had also been carefully placed in the foundations of a wall connected with the temple.

Card said, “this all seems to have been a kind of votive deposit” where someone or a group deliberately placed it beneath the wall as part of the rebuilding works. The DNA testing will confirm whether the two arm bones came from the same person but Dr. McKenzie hopes that analyzing the bone will “reveal more details about the woman - her height and age, health at the time she died, and even her diet”.


What is the Ness of Brodgar? Ten essential facts

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During the summer months in Orkney, an amazing archaeological dig takes place at The Ness of Brodgar (Ness means headland and Brodgar is bridge farm). This archaeological site offers a glimpse into the Neolithic world and its location, size and contents indicate that it was very important to the people who used the buildings for ceremonies and feasts 5000 years ago. As archaeologists continue to uncover more clues, we thought we’d write a beginner’s guide to the Ness of Brodgar, with ten essential facts to help you understand the site!

“The timeline of the Ness of Brodgar is that the buildings here were constructed first, followed by the Standing Stones of Stenness and then the Ring of Brodgar.”


Human Bone Found at Orkney’s Neolithic Cathedral, Ness of Brodgar - History

One thousand years of spirituality, innovation, and social development emerge from a ceremonial center on the Scottish archipelago of Orkney

In 2002, Ola and Arnie Tait decided they wanted to change the view from their kitchen window. Rather than staring at a sheep pasture, they envisioned looking out onto a wildflower meadow full of poppies, cornflowers, buttercups, and singing birds. Their farm, on Orkney, a remote archipelago of 70 islands 10 miles off the north coast of Scotland, sits in a stunning natural setting, on a narrow strip of land between two sparkling lochs, and is equidistant from two of the most significant Neolithic stone circle monuments: the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, each less than a mile away. In 2003, the Taits plowed their field in preparation for planting that meadow. Just as they rounded the last bend, the plow brought up a surprise: a notched slab of stone. They showed the find to Orkney&rsquos regional archaeologist, Julie Gibson, who thought it might be a side panel from a Bronze Age stone coffin. &ldquoThis find implied that there were human remains under the field, so a test trench was opened,&rdquo says Roy Towers, an archaeologist at the Orkney campus of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Years have passed and the Taits are still not looking at their wildflower meadow. Rather, they have a prime view of one of the most spectacular Neolithic ceremonial complexes ever discovered. Spanning a millennium of activity beginning around 5,000 years ago, these exquisitely preserved buildings, including foundations and low walls, are revealing how Neolithic society changed over time, and why Orkney&mdashdespite its seemingly remote location&mdashwas at the center of Neolithic Europe. &ldquoThank goodness the Taits didn&rsquot use a deep plow, or else we&rsquod have been looking at a pile of rubble,&rdquo says Towers.

Instead of digging up a Bronze Age coffin in the 2003 test trench, as they expected, the archaeologists uncovered part of a finely crafted Neolithic wall. &ldquoIt had sharp internal angles, beautifully coursed stonework, and fine corner buttresses,&rdquo explains Nick Card of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, dig director at the site, now known as the &ldquoNess of Brodgar.&rdquo

The next year the archaeologists embarked on a season of digging test pits and trial trenches across the field. To their delight they encountered incredible Neolithic stonework in virtually every hole. Realizing that they were looking at a major Neolithic complex, Card and his colleagues decided to open up a larger area. For the last five years, he and his team have dug for six weeks every summer. So far they have identified more than 20 structures, and observed even more through geophysical tests such as magnetometer surveys and ground-penetrating radar, all enclosed by the remains of a thick boundary wall delineating a six-acre complex&mdashthe size of three soccer pitches. Carbon dating of animal bone, wood, and charcoal indicates at least 1,000 years of continuous activity, from around 3300 to 2300 B.C. The site was likely in use for even longer. &ldquoIn many cases one structure is built on top of another structure. The whole thing is sitting on a jelly of earlier structures,&rdquo says Card. &ldquoWhat we are seeing really is just the tip of the iceberg.&rdquo So far the archaeologists have concentrated on a small portion of the site&mdashjust 10 percent of the total area&mdashand only excavated down to the floor level of the uppermost structures. In the layers of building foundations, Card and his team are seeing a clear progression in building style and architecture&mdasha pattern they think may reflect some of the changes occurring in Neolithic society over that time.

The so-called &ldquoNeolithic Revolution&rdquo started in the British Isles around 6,000 years ago, when new ideas arrived from the continent. Gradually, hunter-gatherers settled down in small villages, adopted new stone tools, and began farming. These agricultural communities were centered in the most productive areas: southwest England, eastern England, eastern Scotland, Orkney, and Ireland.

Remains of these communities are relatively rare, as most British Neolithic dwellings were built from timber and do not survive. Orkney, however, has few trees, so more, though not all, of their buildings were made of stone. Stone villages, such as the Knap of Howar on one of Orkney&rsquos outlying islands, Skara Brae on the western shores of the Orkney mainland, and Barnhouse, just southeast of the Tait&rsquos farmhouse, have provided archaeologists with insights into the domestic lives of these farming communities.

The change to a Neolithic lifestyle also brought a new form of spirituality. Many tombs were constructed during the early and middle Neolithic, and by the late Neolithic, around 2500 B.C., people were building impressive ceremonial stone circles, such as Stonehenge. Stone tombs, including the mysterious Maes Howe, half a mile southeast of the Ness of Brodgar Unstan, across the waters of the Loch of Stenness and many others scattered all over the archipelago, hint at elaborate burial practices. Orkney&rsquos stone circles&mdashthe Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness&mdashprovide a tantalizingly incomplete glimpse of these people&rsquos beliefs and customs.

Now, however, the discovery of the Ness of Brodgar complex shows that something truly important was going on here. Seen from a specially erected viewing platform, the site is a crazy patchwork of overlapping rectangles, like a carelessly scattered pack of cards, with each rectangle delineated by a substantial stone wall. Peeking out from the bottom of this pile are the early structures, and later additions slice over them, culminating in a vast, double-walled building. Hundreds of panels of elaborately carved artwork have emerged from this spectacular construction&mdashmarking it as a truly extraordinary place.

The earliest structures Card and his colleagues have revealed are a series of oval-shaped stone buildings dating to around 3000 B.C. In most cases, only fragments of the buildings have been excavated, with the remainder still buried beneath later structures. However, the fragments suggest that the buildings were divided into different areas by upright slabs arranged in a radial pattern like the spokes on a bicycle wheel. In at least one of these buildings there was a hearth in the center, and in some there were a few sherds of what is known as &ldquoGrooved Ware&rdquo pottery.

What really sets these buildings apart from other known Neolithic settlements is the enclosure by a massive stone wall&mdash13 feet wide&mdashwith a ditch running along the outside of it. &ldquoThe wall has beautiful stonework on the side facing the Ring of Brodgar,&rdquo says Card. Meanwhile, south of the site, what is assumed to be the continuation of this wall has also been uncovered, rising to at least six feet tall, with similarly exquisite stonework and a flagstone pathway at its base. &ldquoThe walls emphasize the importance of what was happening here, and as with us today, the Neolithic people approaching this enclosure must have felt a sense of wonderment and awe,&rdquo he continues.

The presence of this imposing wall suggests that the buildings at the Ness of Brodgar were more than ordinary family homes. Furthermore, the location, on a natural land bridge that links the Ring of Brodgar to the Stones of Stenness (both constructed around the same time as the boundary wall), seems significant. &ldquoIt feels very central to the landscape here, in the middle of a huge natural amphitheater created by the hills around, and with water on either side. There is nowhere else quite like it,&rdquo says Card.

This spectacular setting, the relationships among the Ness buildings, the imposing exterior wall, and the proximity to other ceremonial sites, including the stone circles and Maes Howe tomb, suggest that the Ness of Brodgar held a powerful place in the spiritual lives of these people. While excavations at villages such as Skara Brae and Barnhouse have revealed much about their everyday lives, little is known of the political and spiritual aspects of their culture and society. One suggestion, put forward by Mike Parker Pearson, an archaeologist at University College London, is that the Ness ceremonial complex separated the &ldquoland of the living&rdquo at the Stones of Stenness, from the &ldquoland of the ancestors&rdquo at the Ring of Brodgar, and thus represented a place of transition. Card thinks this is plausible, and wonders if each nearby community had its own special building at the Ness site. &ldquoI think that these communities may have been fiercely competitive, each trying to outdo each other, with visible shows of prestige and power,&rdquo he says.

Gradually, environmental changes appear to have intensified competition between communities, perhaps leading to a more hierarchical form of society, something that Card believes is reflected in the changes of building style. During this portion of the Neolithic, Orkney&rsquos land was slowly sinking due to a phenomenon called glacial rebound. When glaciers melt, the land (which floats upon the Earth&rsquos molten mantle), relieved of the weight, rises like a ship with its cargo removed. As this was happening in western Scotland, Orkney was left on the other end of a seesaw, being pushed down. Valuable farmland was submerged by rising waters. &ldquoThis changing landscape would have made life quite stressful and the flourishing of sophisticated monuments may have partly been a response to this changing landscape,&rdquo says Caroline Wickham-Jones, from the University of Aberdeen, who has studied the sea-level change in the area. People may have turned to spiritual matters to make sense of the changes around them. The monuments and associated ceremonies may have helped the society organize and work together, but also likely reinforced a social hierarchy and the rise of powerful leaders who made decisions for everyone. And as the water continued to slowly rise&mdasha process that continues today&mdashthe neck of land at the Ness of Brodgar is likely to have taken on even greater spiritual importance, as the only dry passage between the two stone circles.

For the people living at the Barnhouse settlement, it appears that the rising waters took their toll around 2700 B.C., when the site was abandoned. &ldquoWe think the boggier land may have made it too difficult for them to grow crops, and they abandoned the village,&rdquo explains Wickham-Jones. And around the same time, a new phase of building began at the Ness of Brodgar. Excavations have revealed that the oval-shaped buildings were replaced by several much larger buildings with more angular architecture, including internal stone &ldquopiers&rdquo that divide the buildings into rectangular alcoves. These buildings are three or four times larger than the dwellings uncovered at Orkney&rsquos most famous Neolithic village, Skara Brae, about five miles away. &ldquoSkara Brae is like a shantytown in comparison to this,&rdquo says Card. Some of the new buildings slice over portions of the old oval buildings, suggesting a fresh start and a new way of doing things.

Four of these newer structures have been excavated, revealing a series of features: &ldquoThe combination of hearths, piers, and upright slabs would have guided people&rsquos passage through the buildings and defined how different parts of the building were used,&rdquo explains Towers. One of these buildings, known as Structure 8, has been excavated down to floor level across half of the interior, providing clues as to how the building was used. The building, which measures 60 by 29 feet, contains four pairs of stone piers, creating 10 alcoves. The central area contains at least three hearths, and is divided by a number of upright slabs. &ldquoThese buildings really have architecture: They have been planned, laid out, and designed,&rdquo says Card. Interestingly, a similar architecture is seen in many of Orkney&rsquos Neolithic tombs, such as the Midhowe and Unstan tombs.

Inside the building, Card and his colleagues found evidence of interior decoration. A number of stones are incised with geometric patterns, and others have remnants of different-colored pigments on them&mdashthe oldest evidence of painted walls in northern Europe. Archaeologists also uncovered a layer of hundreds of thin rectangular stone slates, just above the floor level. They all had carefully trimmed edges the only plausible explanation was that they were slates from a roof that collapsed in 2800 B.C. This is the first evidence for a Neolithic slate roof in Britain, and contradicts the prior assumption that all roofs from this period were thatched. Unlike steeper modern slate roofs, this one probably had a low pitch, with clay used to seal gaps. Orkney doesn&rsquot have many large trees, but roof trusses may have been made with wood from Scandinavia and the Baltic, as well as big pieces of North American driftwood riding the Gulf Stream.

The roof collapse appears to have taken place while the building was still in use, encasing a variety of unusual items exactly where they had been left 4,800 years ago. In some of the alcoves, Card and his team have found exotic items, including a whalebone mace-head, stone mace-heads, a whale tooth, and polished stone axes and tools, along with more familiar items such as animal bones and pottery. The unusual assemblage appears to have been positioned deliberately and carefully. &ldquoIt looked like people had left these things and intended to come back to them, or they were votive offerings to mark the end of this building,&rdquo says Card. Similar prized objects have also emerged from the other contemporary structures, including a stunning polished stone ax discovered in another building, Structure 14, during the 2012 dig season. &ldquoIt is a magnificently colored metamorphic rock, bluey-black as a background, interleaved with puffy white clouds of quartz. Looking at it is like lying on your back gazing at a summer sky,&rdquo Towers says. The huge amount of time, effort, and energy that went into making these highly prized items, their location within the buildings, and the special status of the buildings themselves, all point toward these objects being used in some kind of ceremony or ritual.

Some archaeologists speculate that different buildings at the Ness of Brodgar would have belonged to different &ldquoclans&rdquo or settlements. &ldquoJust as stones from different places form the Ring of Brodgar, I suspect that particular groups are present at the Ness site by way of &lsquobig houses,&rsquo or &lsquoholy houses&rsquo as they have been called,&rdquo says Colin Richards from the University of Manchester, who excavated the Barnhouse settlement.


Neolithic Fingerprints Tell Us More About Ancient People

The Ness of Brodgar is the name of the thin strip of land in the West Mainland of Orkney that separates the lochs of Harray and Stenness. The two Neolithic fingerprints were discovered on the same piece of 5,000-year-old pottery as the earlier one, and together they have revealed new details about the ancient people of Orkney, the archipelago northeast of Scotland, that has some of the most magnificent standing stone megalithic monuments in the world.

Nick Card, the director of the Ness of Brodgar excavation, told Orkney News that the new findings “put the people back into the story of the Neolithic landscape .” Professor Card said this one single sherd has brought two people “back into the spotlight.” And they have yielded an unparalleled glimpse into life at the Ness complex 5,000 years ago, added the researcher. Moreover, the archaeologist said that his teams of excavators have so far discovered “well over 80,000 pottery sherds . . . at the Ness of Brodgar, so it is all too easy to lose sight of the people behind the clay artifacts.”

Life-size sculpture of a prehistoric man or boy decorating a clay bowl ( Juan Aunión / Adobe Stock)


Around the Ness – Skara Brae

Hailed the best-preserved Neolithic village in northern Europe, Skara Brae stands on the southern shore of the Bay of Skaill, in Orkney’s West Mainland – around 5½ miles, as the crow flies, to the north-west of the Ness of Brodgar complex

In the midst of an archaeology rich landscape, thousands of visitors flock annually to the site to view the consolidated remains of ten 5,000-year-old buildings.

Cocooned by sand for millennia, Skara Brae’s buildings, and their contents, are incredibly well-preserved. Not only are the walls still standing, and passageways roofed with their original stone slabs, but the interior fittings of each house give an unparalleled glimpse of life in Neolithic Orkney.

Discovery and excavation

‘The Weem of Scara Brae’ (sic) — an undated photograph of the site but given the vegetative growth visible, it must have been taken some time after William Watt’s efforts to clear the site.
(Picture courtesy of Orkney Library Photographic Archive).

Around 1850 [1], a violent storm, together with an exceptionally high tide, undermined part of the dunes at “Skerrabrae” [2] to reveal [3] an artefact-filled “kitchen midden”[4]. Investigation by William Watt, resident of the nearby Skaill House, suggested “the existence of extensive buildings” [4]. Watt wasted no time before digging into these and, by February 1851, it was clear there was “a small ruinous chamber” within an “immense accumulation of ashes, several feet in thickness, plentifully mixed with shells and the horns and bones of deer and other animals” [5].

By 1868, four structures and had been revealed and a “vast hoard of primitive relics” gathered [6]. Although Watt’s work was carried out “with loving care and almost with his own hands” [7] it was excavation only in terms of the dictionary definition. Were it not for the Orcadian antiquarian George Petrie’s plans and records of the site, documentation would be non-existent [8].

After Watt, the initial flurry of activity around Skara Brae waned and the site left to the elements for at least 45 years. It was revisited in 1913, when William Balfour Stewart’s “unmethodical excavations” [9] seem to have simply cleared out previously investigated areas.

Vere Gordon Childe (bottom left) pictured during his excavations at Skara Brae. The two women are now thought to have been students of Childe’s and part of a visiting group that included Margaret Simpson, Margaret Mitchell, Mary Kennedy and Dame Margaret Cole. (Picture courtesy of Orkney Library Photographic Archive)

Skara Brae was then left until 1925, when another storm damaged some of the structures. A sea wall was constructed and it was decided that the building remains should also be consolidated. A side benefit of this was an excavation, which ran from 1927 until 1930 and led by Professor Vere Gordon Childe.

Childe set to work “clearing out” the buildings [10] and “was reasonably successful” [11], in uncovering “an agglomeration of stone huts connected by covered passages and all partially buried in a huge midden heap” [12].

Childe’s interpretation of the site saw him create an inaccurate, but tenacious, vision of Neolithic life that remains in some quarters today. Perhaps the most persistent element being the sudden and “hasty desertion” of the settlement in the face of an apocalyptic calamity.

Childe originally thought Skara Brae represented an Iron Age settlement (early centuries AD) based on correlation be believed to exist between the carved stone balls found and Pictish symbol stones [13]. Some years later, when it became clear that the pottery was much earlier [14], Skara Brae was pushed back two millennia, firmly into the Neolithic.

Radiocarbon dating in the early 1970s confirmed that the settlement dated from the late Neolithic, suggesting the site was inhabited between 3200BC and 2200BC.

The houses

Plan of Skara Brae with the position of Clarke’s two excavation trenches in 1972-1973 marked.
(Clarke, D.V. 1976. The Neolithic Village of Skara Brae, Orkney: 1972–1973 Excavations. An interim report. HMSO: Edinburgh.)

Each house shares the same basic design – a large square room, with a central hearth, a “bed” on either side and a shelved “dresser” on the wall opposite the doorway.

Visit the site today and you will see structures from two stages of the settlement’s history. All but two of these are from the later phase of activity.

Dresser in House One from the entrance. (Sigurd Towrie)

Skara Brae followed the pattern since noted at other Orcadian Neolithic settlements – houses were built, inhabited, abandoned and rebuilt, frequently on the same site. Because of this, the early structures lie beneath the later constructions so can only be seen on the periphery of the excavated settlement (Houses Nine and Ten). These early houses were circular with the “beds” set into the walls at either side of the hearth. Excavation evidence suggests they were also freestanding and clad in turf jackets – as encountered at the Barnhouse Settlement.

The later houses followed the same basic design, but on a larger scale. The house shape changed slightly, becoming more rectangular with rounded internal corners. Also, the beds were no longer built into the wall but protruded into the main living area.

Today, visitors often think, not helped by over a century of accounts suggesting the same, that Skara Brae was an underground village, linked by a series of short, roofed tunnels. This is not the case. The houses were not sunk into the ground but built on it and, over their lifetimes, became encased in domestic refuse, sand and other materials [15].

Interior of House One, Skara Brae. (Sigurd Towrie)

Each house was accessed through a low doorway, which had a stone slab door that could be closed, and secured, by a bar that fitted into holes in the door jambs.

Despite the well-planned and executed drainage system serving the structures – including what may be internal toilets – Childe firmly believed the occupants lived in squalor, tolerating “a nauseating amount of filth on the hut floors” [10]. Behind his repeated references to the foetid living conditions was his incorrect belief that the settlement was abandoned, and the occupants fled, in the face of a catastrophe. To Childe, the condition of the buildings in 1928-30 was exactly as they had been left following his proposed Neolithic exodus.

The roofs

Skara Brae. (Hugo Anderson-Whymark)

Because nothing survived of the structures’ roofs, we must assume that they were made of a perishable, organic material. Perhaps whalebone, or driftwood, beams supported a roof of turf, skins, thatched seaweed or straw. Seaweed, weighed down with straw ropes attached to stones, remained a roofing material in Orkney into recent history.

Until the discovery of stone roofing “tiles” at the Ness of Brodgar, it was assumed all Neolithic constructions had organic roofs. In light of this, re-reading the early excavation reports offers an intriguing possibility – were Skara Brae’s houses stone roofed too?

In July 1861, James Farrer wrote a letter to The Orcadian newspaper in which he stated that all the chambers and passages “were filled with sand and stones fallen from the roof…”

While this is far from definite evidence of roofing tiles, in 1931 Childe described House Seven at Skara Brae: “Scraps of bone and shells were lying scattered promiscuously all over the floor, sometimes masked by broken slates laid down like stepping stones over the morass” [9].

Had Childe unwittingly stumbled across roofing tiles? Unfortunately, we will never know.

The date and extent of Skara Brae

“Among those numerous remains of primitive dwellings of the early inhabitants of the Orkneys, which have been more or. less examined, a great mass of ruins on the shore of the bay of Skaill, in the parish of Sandwick, occupies a prominent place, and deserves particular notice.”

In 2017, a re-evaluation of Orcadian radiocarbon dates suggested that occupation at Skara Brae began around 2900BC but was abandoned a short time later and re-occupied between 2800-2700BC. The site was abandoned around 2500BC [16].

These results seem to indicate a clear hiatus at Skara Brae but does this actually represent abandonment? Are we seeing something else – buildings or areas perhaps going out of use? This highlights a problem with Skara Brae’s interpretation – the assumption that the consolidated remains represent the entirety of the settlement. As we will see, what visitors to the Neolithic village see now is probably a fraction of the original. As Brend et al. stressed in 2020, “the extent of a Neolithic settlement in Orkney is seldom, if ever, the same as the area excavated [17]”.

Skara Brae has been said to have been a cluster of no more than ten to twelve houses, inhabited by a population of around 70 [18]. But the evidence now suggests that the village we see today was but one part of a more extensive settlement. As recently as 2009, David Clarke – who excavated Skara Brae in the 1970s – all but dismissed this possibility.

Conceding that any archaeological remains seaward of the village were long gone, he stressed that “archaeologists are fairly confident that landward, little, if anything remains to be discovered” [19]. Archaeological evidence suggests this is not the case. Not only do we have early activity on the outskirts of the consolidated village but a large eroding mound, 100 metres to the west, revealed at least two, if not three, major structural phases, separated by large deposits of windblown sand.

South of Skara Brae, fieldwalking has identified a scatter of flint, bone and a stone tool identified as Neolithic [17]. Supporting the physical evidence, geophysical surveys strongly suggest the excavated village is but one part of a much larger settlement [17].

A series of magnetic anomalies to the south and west of Skara Brae hint at a settlement that could be as much as five times the size of the known remains. Whether occupation extended to the north (i.e. seaward) and, if so, how far, is now impossible to tell. The fact that during the lifetime of Skara Brae the area occupied by the current bay was a mix of dry land, freshwater lochans and marsh, with encroaching sand and machair [20] makes a lost northern section very possible, if not probable.

Skara Brae and the Bay of Skaill. (Sigurd Towrie)

Abandonment

The idea that Skara Brae was abandoned overnight in the face of a cataclysm that caused the inhabitants to flee is entirely incorrect. Unfortunately, it is still often presented as fact.

As we have seen, this suitably dramatic end was proposed by the archaeologist Gordon Childe after his excavations in the late 1920s. Like a northern Pompeii, it immediately caught the public’s imagination but is complete fiction. Instead, Skara Brae’s decline was probably much more complex and gradual.

Although radiocarbon dating suggests an end around 2500BC, we must remember that this relates only to the excavated portion of the settlement. Because that section was probably just one part of a much larger settlement can we really say Skara Brae was abandoned? It may be that life went on at Skara Brae – but was focused in another area. Activity certainly continued around the Bay of Skaill throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages and beyond.

That said, evidence from across Orkney does point to a change in society around 2500BC [16] and with this it has been suggested that nucleated settlements, such as Skara Brae, went out of use [16] This, however, was certainly not an overnight phenomenon and may have occurred over a prolonged period of time.

The name

The second element of the name Skara Brae is the Scots word brae, meaning slope, but which is often found in Orkney referring to mounds. The first element, however, has long been pondered and remains unclear. But as we have seen, Skara Brae is a relatively recent invention. The older version, Skerrabrae, suggests the first element may relate to the Old Norse sker, meaning reef, which is found today in the word skerry. It is perhaps no coincidence that a large, rocky skerry lies at the southern end of the Bay of Skaill, a little to the west of Skara Brae.

This possibility is strengthened when we look at the name given by Orcadian George Marwick in the late 1800s. Recounting a folktale centred on the Bay of Skaill, Marwick explains that “Skerow Brae” was used as a navigation aid by those at sea [21]. In this form, the presence of -ow suffix could represent the Old Norse haugr, meaning mound and which is often found in placenames as -howe, -how or -ow.

If we follow the sker avenue, Skerow is simply descriptive, meaning skerry mound.

In a retelling of the same folktale, Marwick give the navigational mound a different name – Skawhowe.

Skaw is generally thought to derive from the Old Norse skagi, meaning headland or promontory, so we have promontory mound. The problem with this is that Skara Brae does not sit on a headland. While Marwick may be referring to a second, different navigation point, this seems unlikely as the instructions given for lining up the two points are the same. Instead, I wonder whether there was an error when Marwick’s handwritten article was transcribed for publication in The Orkney Herald in December 1891.


Neolithic discovery: why Orkney is the centre of ancient Britain

D rive west from Orkney's capital, Kirkwall, and then head north on the narrow B9055 and you will reach a single stone monolith that guards the entrance to a spit of land known as the Ness of Brodgar. The promontory separates the island's two largest bodies of freshwater, the Loch of Stenness and the Loch of Harray. At their furthest edges, the lochs' peaty brown water laps against fields and hills that form a natural amphitheatre a landscape peppered with giant rings of stone, chambered cairns, ancient villages and other archaeological riches.

This is the heartland of the Neolithic North, a bleak, mysterious place that has made Orkney a magnet for archaeologists, historians and other researchers. For decades they have tramped the island measuring and ex- cavating its great Stone Age sites. The land was surveyed, mapped and known until a recent chance discovery revealed that for all their attention, scientists had completely overlooked a Neolithic treasure that utterly eclipses all others on Orkney – and in the rest of Europe.

This is the temple complex of the Ness of Brodgar, and its size, complexity and sophistication have left archaeologists desperately struggling to find superlatives to describe the wonders they found there. "We have discovered a Neolithic temple complex that is without parallel in western Europe. Yet for decades we thought it was just a hill made of glacial moraine," says discoverer Nick Card of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology. "In fact the place is entirely manmade, although it covers more than six acres of land."

Once protected by two giant walls, each more than 100m long and 4m high, the complex at Ness contained more than a dozen large temples – one measured almost 25m square – that were linked to outhouses and kitchens by carefully constructed stone pavements. The bones of sacrificed cattle, elegantly made pottery and pieces of painted ceramics lie scattered round the site. The exact purpose of the complex is a mystery, though it is clearly ancient. Some parts were constructed more than 5,000 years ago.

The people of the Neolithic – the new Stone Age – were the first farmers in Britain, and they arrived on Orkney about 6,000 years ago. They cultivated the land, built farmsteads and rapidly established a vibrant culture, erecting giant stone circles, chambered communal tombs – and a giant complex of buildings at the Ness of Brodgar. The religious beliefs that underpinned these vast works is unknown, however, as is the purpose of the Brodgar temples.

"This wasn't a settlement or a place for the living," says archaeologist Professor Colin Richards of Manchester University, who excavated the nearby Barnhouse settlement in the 1980s. "This was a ceremonial centre, and a vast one at that. But the religious beliefs of its builders remain a mystery."

What is clear is that the cultural energy of the few thousand farming folk of Orkney dwarfed those of other civilisations at that time. In size and sophistication, the Ness of Brodgar is comparable with Stonehenge or the wonders of ancient Egypt. Yet the temple complex predates them all. The fact that this great stately edifice was constructed on Orkney, an island that has become a byword for remoteness, makes the site's discovery all the more remarkable. For many archaeologists, its discovery has revolutionised our understanding of ancient Britain.

"We need to turn the map of Britain upside down when we consider the Neolithic and shrug off our south-centric attitudes," says Card, now Brodgar's director of excavations. "London may be the cultural hub of Britain today, but 5,000 years ago, Orkney was the centre for innovation for the British isles. Ideas spread from this place. The first grooved pottery, which is so distinctive of the era, was made here, for example, and the first henges – stone rings with ditches round them – were erected on Orkney. Then the ideas spread to the rest of the Neolithic Britain. This was the font for new thinking at the time."

It is a view shared by local historian Tom Muir, of the Orkney Museum. "The whole text book of British archaeology for this period will have to be torn up and rewritten from scratch thanks to this place," he says.

Farmers first reached Orkney on boats that took them across the narrow – but treacherously dangerous – Pentland Firth from mainland Scotland. These were the people of the New Stone Age, and they brought cattle, pigs and sheep with them, as well as grain to plant and ploughs to till the land. The few hunter-gatherers already living on Orkney were replaced and farmsteads were established across the archipelago. These early farmers were clearly successful, though life would still have been precarious, with hunting providing precious supplies of extra protein. At the village of Knap o'Howar on Papay the bones of domesticated cattle, sheep and pigs have been found alongside those of wild deer, whales and seals, for example, while analysis of human bones from the period suggest that few people reached the age of 50. Those who survived childhood usually died in their 30s.

Discarded stone tools and shards of elegant pottery also indicate that the early Orcadians were developing an increasingly sophisticated society. Over the centuries, their small farming communities coalesced into larger tribal units, possibly with an elite ruling class, and they began to construct bigger and bigger monuments. These sites included the 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae the giant chambered grave of Maeshowe, a Stone Age mausoleum whose internal walls were later carved with runes by Vikings and the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, two huge neighbouring circles of standing stones. These are some of the finest Neolithic monuments in the world, and in 1999 they were given World Heritage status by Unesco, an act that led directly to the discovery of the Ness of Brodgar.

"Being given World Heritage status meant we had to think about the land surrounding the sites," says Card. "We decided to carry out geophysical surveys to see what else might be found there." Such surveys involve the use of magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar to pinpoint manmade artefacts hidden underground. And the first place selected by Card for this electromagnetic investigation was the Ness of Brodgar.

The ridge was assumed to be natural. However, Card's magnetometers showed that it was entirely manmade and bristled with features that included lines of walls, concentric pathways and outlines of large buildings. "The density of these features stunned us," says Card. At first, given its size, the team assumed they had stumbled on a general site that had been in continuous use for some time, providing shelter for people for most of Orkney's history, from prehistoric to medieval times. "No other interpretation seemed to fit the observations," adds Card. But once more the Ness of Brodgar would confound expectations.

Test pits, a metre square across, were drilled in lines across the ridge and revealed elaborate walls, slabs of carefully carved rock, and pieces of pottery. None came from the Bronze Age, however, nor from the Viking era or medieval times. Dozens of pits were dug over the ridge, an area the size of five football pitches, and every one revealed items with a Neolithic background.

Then the digging began in earnest and quickly revealed the remains of buildings of startling sophistication. Carefully made pathways surrounded walls – some of them several metres high – that had been constructed with patience and precision.

"It was absolutely stunning," says Colin Richards. "The walls were dead straight. Little slithers of stones had even been slipped between the main slabs to keep the facing perfect. This quality of workmanship would not be seen again on Orkney for thousands of years."

Slowly the shape and dimensions of the Ness of Brodgar site revealed themselves. Two great walls, several metres high, had been built straight across the ridge. There was no way you could pass along the Ness without going through the complex. Within those walls a series of temples had been built, many on top of older ones. "The place seems to have been in use for a thousand years, with building going on all the time," says Card.

More than a dozen of these temples have already been uncovered though only about 10% of the site has been fully excavated so far.

"We have never seen anything like this before," says York University archaeologist Professor Mark Edmonds. "The density of the archaeology, the scale of the buildings and the skill that was used to construct them are simply phenomenal. There are very few dry-stone walls on Orkney today that could match the ones we have uncovered here. Yet they are more than 5,000 years old in places, still standing a couple of metres high. This was a place that was meant to impress – and it still does."

But it is not just the dimensions that have surprised and delighted archaeologists. Two years ago, their excavations revealed that haematite-based pigments had been used to paint external walls – another transformation in our thinking about the Stone Age. "We see Neolithic remains after they have been bleached out and eroded," says Edmonds. "However, it is now clear from Brodgar that buildings could have been perfectly cheerful and colourful."

The men and women who built at the Ness also used red and yellow sandstone to enliven their constructions. (More than 3,000 years later, their successors used the same materials when building St Magnus' Cathedral in Kirkwall.) But what was the purpose of their construction work and why put it in the Ness of Brodgar? Of the two questions, the latter is the easier to answer – for the Brodgar headland is clearly special. "When you stand here, you find yourself in a glorious landscape," says Card. "You are in the middle of a natural amphitheatre created by the hills around you."

The surrounding hills are relatively low, and a great dome of sky hangs over Brodgar, perfect for watching the setting and rising of the sun, moon and other celestial objects. (Card believes the weather on Orkney may have been warmer and clearer 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.) Cosmology would have been critical to society then, he argues, helping farmers predict the seasons – a point supported by scientists such as the late Alexander Thom, who believed that the Ring of Brodgar was an observatory designed for studying the movement of the moon.

These outposts of Neolithic astronomy, although impressive, were nevertheless peripheral, says Richards. The temple complex at the Ness of Brodgar was built to be the most important construction on the island. "The stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar and the other features of the landscape were really just adjuncts to that great edifice," he says. Or as another archaeologist put it: "By comparison, everything else in the area looks like a shanty town."

For a farming community of a few thousand people to create such edifices suggests that the Ness of Brodgar was of profound importance. Yet its purpose remains elusive. The ritual purification of the dead by fire may be involved, suggests Card. As he points out, several of the temples at Brodgar have hearths, though this was clearly not a domestic dwelling. In addition, archeologists have found that many of the stone mace heads (hard, polished, holed stones) that litter the site had been broken in two in exactly the same place. "We have found evidence of this at other sites," says Richards. "It may be that relatives broke them in two at a funeral, leaving one part with the dead and one with family as a memorial to the dead. This was a place concerned with death and the deceased, I believe."

Equally puzzling was the fate of the complex. Around 2,300BC, roughly a thousand years after construction began there, the place was abruptly abandoned. Radiocarbon dating of animal bones suggests that a huge feast ceremony was held, with more than 600 cattle slaughtered, after which the site appears to have been decommissioned. Perhaps a transfer of power took place or a new religion replaced the old one. Whatever the reason, the great temple complex – on which Orcadians had lavished almost a millennium's effort – was abandoned and forgotten for the next 4,000 years.


Neolithic discovery: why Orkney is the centre of ancient Britain

D rive west from Orkney's capital, Kirkwall, and then head north on the narrow B9055 and you will reach a single stone monolith that guards the entrance to a spit of land known as the Ness of Brodgar. The promontory separates the island's two largest bodies of freshwater, the Loch of Stenness and the Loch of Harray. At their furthest edges, the lochs' peaty brown water laps against fields and hills that form a natural amphitheatre a landscape peppered with giant rings of stone, chambered cairns, ancient villages and other archaeological riches.

This is the heartland of the Neolithic North, a bleak, mysterious place that has made Orkney a magnet for archaeologists, historians and other researchers. For decades they have tramped the island measuring and ex- cavating its great Stone Age sites. The land was surveyed, mapped and known until a recent chance discovery revealed that for all their attention, scientists had completely overlooked a Neolithic treasure that utterly eclipses all others on Orkney – and in the rest of Europe.

This is the temple complex of the Ness of Brodgar, and its size, complexity and sophistication have left archaeologists desperately struggling to find superlatives to describe the wonders they found there. "We have discovered a Neolithic temple complex that is without parallel in western Europe. Yet for decades we thought it was just a hill made of glacial moraine," says discoverer Nick Card of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology. "In fact the place is entirely manmade, although it covers more than six acres of land."

Once protected by two giant walls, each more than 100m long and 4m high, the complex at Ness contained more than a dozen large temples – one measured almost 25m square – that were linked to outhouses and kitchens by carefully constructed stone pavements. The bones of sacrificed cattle, elegantly made pottery and pieces of painted ceramics lie scattered round the site. The exact purpose of the complex is a mystery, though it is clearly ancient. Some parts were constructed more than 5,000 years ago.

The people of the Neolithic – the new Stone Age – were the first farmers in Britain, and they arrived on Orkney about 6,000 years ago. They cultivated the land, built farmsteads and rapidly established a vibrant culture, erecting giant stone circles, chambered communal tombs – and a giant complex of buildings at the Ness of Brodgar. The religious beliefs that underpinned these vast works is unknown, however, as is the purpose of the Brodgar temples.

"This wasn't a settlement or a place for the living," says archaeologist Professor Colin Richards of Manchester University, who excavated the nearby Barnhouse settlement in the 1980s. "This was a ceremonial centre, and a vast one at that. But the religious beliefs of its builders remain a mystery."

What is clear is that the cultural energy of the few thousand farming folk of Orkney dwarfed those of other civilisations at that time. In size and sophistication, the Ness of Brodgar is comparable with Stonehenge or the wonders of ancient Egypt. Yet the temple complex predates them all. The fact that this great stately edifice was constructed on Orkney, an island that has become a byword for remoteness, makes the site's discovery all the more remarkable. For many archaeologists, its discovery has revolutionised our understanding of ancient Britain.

"We need to turn the map of Britain upside down when we consider the Neolithic and shrug off our south-centric attitudes," says Card, now Brodgar's director of excavations. "London may be the cultural hub of Britain today, but 5,000 years ago, Orkney was the centre for innovation for the British isles. Ideas spread from this place. The first grooved pottery, which is so distinctive of the era, was made here, for example, and the first henges – stone rings with ditches round them – were erected on Orkney. Then the ideas spread to the rest of the Neolithic Britain. This was the font for new thinking at the time."

It is a view shared by local historian Tom Muir, of the Orkney Museum. "The whole text book of British archaeology for this period will have to be torn up and rewritten from scratch thanks to this place," he says.

Farmers first reached Orkney on boats that took them across the narrow – but treacherously dangerous – Pentland Firth from mainland Scotland. These were the people of the New Stone Age, and they brought cattle, pigs and sheep with them, as well as grain to plant and ploughs to till the land. The few hunter-gatherers already living on Orkney were replaced and farmsteads were established across the archipelago. These early farmers were clearly successful, though life would still have been precarious, with hunting providing precious supplies of extra protein. At the village of Knap o'Howar on Papay the bones of domesticated cattle, sheep and pigs have been found alongside those of wild deer, whales and seals, for example, while analysis of human bones from the period suggest that few people reached the age of 50. Those who survived childhood usually died in their 30s.

Discarded stone tools and shards of elegant pottery also indicate that the early Orcadians were developing an increasingly sophisticated society. Over the centuries, their small farming communities coalesced into larger tribal units, possibly with an elite ruling class, and they began to construct bigger and bigger monuments. These sites included the 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae the giant chambered grave of Maeshowe, a Stone Age mausoleum whose internal walls were later carved with runes by Vikings and the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, two huge neighbouring circles of standing stones. These are some of the finest Neolithic monuments in the world, and in 1999 they were given World Heritage status by Unesco, an act that led directly to the discovery of the Ness of Brodgar.

"Being given World Heritage status meant we had to think about the land surrounding the sites," says Card. "We decided to carry out geophysical surveys to see what else might be found there." Such surveys involve the use of magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar to pinpoint manmade artefacts hidden underground. And the first place selected by Card for this electromagnetic investigation was the Ness of Brodgar.

The ridge was assumed to be natural. However, Card's magnetometers showed that it was entirely manmade and bristled with features that included lines of walls, concentric pathways and outlines of large buildings. "The density of these features stunned us," says Card. At first, given its size, the team assumed they had stumbled on a general site that had been in continuous use for some time, providing shelter for people for most of Orkney's history, from prehistoric to medieval times. "No other interpretation seemed to fit the observations," adds Card. But once more the Ness of Brodgar would confound expectations.

Test pits, a metre square across, were drilled in lines across the ridge and revealed elaborate walls, slabs of carefully carved rock, and pieces of pottery. None came from the Bronze Age, however, nor from the Viking era or medieval times. Dozens of pits were dug over the ridge, an area the size of five football pitches, and every one revealed items with a Neolithic background.

Then the digging began in earnest and quickly revealed the remains of buildings of startling sophistication. Carefully made pathways surrounded walls – some of them several metres high – that had been constructed with patience and precision.

"It was absolutely stunning," says Colin Richards. "The walls were dead straight. Little slithers of stones had even been slipped between the main slabs to keep the facing perfect. This quality of workmanship would not be seen again on Orkney for thousands of years."

Slowly the shape and dimensions of the Ness of Brodgar site revealed themselves. Two great walls, several metres high, had been built straight across the ridge. There was no way you could pass along the Ness without going through the complex. Within those walls a series of temples had been built, many on top of older ones. "The place seems to have been in use for a thousand years, with building going on all the time," says Card.

More than a dozen of these temples have already been uncovered though only about 10% of the site has been fully excavated so far.

"We have never seen anything like this before," says York University archaeologist Professor Mark Edmonds. "The density of the archaeology, the scale of the buildings and the skill that was used to construct them are simply phenomenal. There are very few dry-stone walls on Orkney today that could match the ones we have uncovered here. Yet they are more than 5,000 years old in places, still standing a couple of metres high. This was a place that was meant to impress – and it still does."

But it is not just the dimensions that have surprised and delighted archaeologists. Two years ago, their excavations revealed that haematite-based pigments had been used to paint external walls – another transformation in our thinking about the Stone Age. "We see Neolithic remains after they have been bleached out and eroded," says Edmonds. "However, it is now clear from Brodgar that buildings could have been perfectly cheerful and colourful."

The men and women who built at the Ness also used red and yellow sandstone to enliven their constructions. (More than 3,000 years later, their successors used the same materials when building St Magnus' Cathedral in Kirkwall.) But what was the purpose of their construction work and why put it in the Ness of Brodgar? Of the two questions, the latter is the easier to answer – for the Brodgar headland is clearly special. "When you stand here, you find yourself in a glorious landscape," says Card. "You are in the middle of a natural amphitheatre created by the hills around you."

The surrounding hills are relatively low, and a great dome of sky hangs over Brodgar, perfect for watching the setting and rising of the sun, moon and other celestial objects. (Card believes the weather on Orkney may have been warmer and clearer 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.) Cosmology would have been critical to society then, he argues, helping farmers predict the seasons – a point supported by scientists such as the late Alexander Thom, who believed that the Ring of Brodgar was an observatory designed for studying the movement of the moon.

These outposts of Neolithic astronomy, although impressive, were nevertheless peripheral, says Richards. The temple complex at the Ness of Brodgar was built to be the most important construction on the island. "The stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar and the other features of the landscape were really just adjuncts to that great edifice," he says. Or as another archaeologist put it: "By comparison, everything else in the area looks like a shanty town."

For a farming community of a few thousand people to create such edifices suggests that the Ness of Brodgar was of profound importance. Yet its purpose remains elusive. The ritual purification of the dead by fire may be involved, suggests Card. As he points out, several of the temples at Brodgar have hearths, though this was clearly not a domestic dwelling. In addition, archeologists have found that many of the stone mace heads (hard, polished, holed stones) that litter the site had been broken in two in exactly the same place. "We have found evidence of this at other sites," says Richards. "It may be that relatives broke them in two at a funeral, leaving one part with the dead and one with family as a memorial to the dead. This was a place concerned with death and the deceased, I believe."

Equally puzzling was the fate of the complex. Around 2,300BC, roughly a thousand years after construction began there, the place was abruptly abandoned. Radiocarbon dating of animal bones suggests that a huge feast ceremony was held, with more than 600 cattle slaughtered, after which the site appears to have been decommissioned. Perhaps a transfer of power took place or a new religion replaced the old one. Whatever the reason, the great temple complex – on which Orcadians had lavished almost a millennium's effort – was abandoned and forgotten for the next 4,000 years.


The hidden histories of the Ness of Brodgar

University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute MSc student Will Lowe is undertaking his work placement with us in the marketing department at Orkney College.

As part of his project Will is looking at post excavation processes and the ways in which information is shared across both the academic and wider community.

My name is William Lowe and I’m a MSc student at the University of the Highlands and Islands and in this blog post I will be writing about the 2019 Ness of Brodgar dig and some of its discoveries. Now for those who don’t know what the Ness of Brodgar is, it is an extensive Neolithic complex in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site on the Orkney Mainland.

If you are interested in reading up on the site I would recommend either the team’s daily blog or even the National Geographic article on the Ness of Brodgar

The aim of this blog is to show off some of the finds made this year and how by carefully examining them we can piece together the overall history of this site and the people connected to it. In order to do that I have selected 3 finds in particular.

For the first objects I will disregard the rule that I just set and discuss two objects in particular, these are a piece of bone and a piece of pot that were discovered in the new area, known as Trench T…the “mystery trench”. These may seem like mundane finds compared to some others, but sometimes it is these mundane objects that tell the best stories. They were found in Structure 27, a new structure that has no parallels on the site, let alone Scotland!

These objects were part of the “trash” from the rest of the site that was thrown in the structure after it was abandoned, but not put out of use it seems. The mound was far larger than what the diggers first envisaged, so much so that it must have been clearly visible from far away, and Cristina, the trench supervisor, believes this was done on purpose in order to show off to whomever was in the vicinity!

The second object is a macehead that was found on Friday. It is a stunning find that was never finished, which is unfortunately a mystery we don’t know the answer to. What we do know is that it’s made out of olivine basalt, which may be from another Orkney island to the south-west called Hoy. This is important because it shows that the inhabitants were being extremely selective about their rocks. Similarly other objects from previous seasons known as a “pitchstone” – a volcanic glass from the island of Arran several hundred miles to the SW of Orkney and similar to obsidian was knapped using a technique similar to that found in south Scotland, showing the links the site had and how far they spanned.

The last object is a decorated stone. A myriad of decorations have been found in the past years by Nick and his team, and although similar decorations have been found in Maeshowe, they are still a mystery. Maybe as we find more and through a little research, we will be able to discover more about their hidden histories!


Watch the video: Aunjetitzer Kultur, Siedlungen und Keramik (October 2022).

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