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 Location: Mainland Orkneys, Scotland.  Grid Reference: 58° 59' 52" N. 3° 12' 48" W

 

       The 'Ness' of Brodgar:

The Ness of Brodgar has been revealed as an integral part of the Brodgar/Stennes Complex, being sited directly between the two sites, and composing a complex of around 100 buildings and a vast wall, 100m long and 4m wide, traversing the width of the peninsula and potentially surrounding the site turning it into the equivalent of a a temple precinct. (2) This site has greatly helped to unravel the prehistoric perspective of the area. The site It was occupied from 3,500 BC for over a thousand years, showing stark similarities with Stonehenge. The archaeologist, Mike Pearson who conducted the recent digs at Stonehenge has suggested that the two sites may have similarities in function, representing the symbolic boundary between the land of the living and the land of the dead.

Photo Credits: http://www.ruralgateway.org.uk/node/3261

 

   The Ness of Brodgar:

Archaeological remains have been known on the site for over a hundred years as this map of 1886 shows.

(Photo Credits: http://www.megalithic.co.uk)  

It is now realised that the site is composed of as many as 100 structures within the walled enclosure. Within these walls certain larger buildings, or structures are being particularly noted by archaeologists:

Structure 1: This building has three doorways and three hearths. One of the doorways appears to require its user to step over a hearth.

Structure 8: A long building with a doorway at one end and three hearths along the middle. Inside, the side walls are divided into compartments by larger piers built into the walls. The building contained several broken mace heads and some whale bone.

Structure 12: Curiously, this building has no hearths, the same piers, and a narrow entrance at one end.

Structure 10: ('The Cathedral') This building was built over other buildings within the walls and is therefore considerably younger. It’s roughly square, has immensely thick walls enclosing a small central room and is surrounded by a large amount of cattle bone.

 

The Great Wall of Brodgar.

Photo Credits: (Will MacNeil)

The wall is suggested to have surrounded the complex almost entirely. It is the result of a fantastic amount of man-hours, being 4m wide along its length. It acts as a view-obscuring barrier with the most beautiful stonework incorporated into the side facing the Ring itself. It is believed that it was not intended as a defensive structure, but was more of a symbolic barrier, separating the activity on the south-east of the Ness from whatever activity was going on around the Ring of Brodgar.

The wall’s discovery fits in with a theory proposed a few years ago that the two stone rings had specific roles in Neolithic life – in particular representing life and death. This was first proposed by archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson in a paper presented at the Neolithic Conference in Kirkwall in 1998.

Based on his earlier work on Stonehenge and Avebury, in England, he suggested that the Standing Stones of Stenness, with its central hearth and surrounded by evidence of feasting, settlement and activity, represented life and the world of the living. In stark contrast, the Brodgar ring, with its marked lack of domestic activity and later surrounded by a complex of Bronze Age burial barrows, represented death, or a spiritual domain of the ancestors. So if this theory is correct, was the procession from Stenness to Brodgar seen as a symbolic journey from life to death?

 

The 'Cathedral'.

Experts have uncovered what is being called a Neolithic 'Cathedral'. The massive building is of a kind never seen before in Britain. It is 82 ft long and 65ft wide with walls still standing over 3ft high (proposed at 10ft originally), which were up to 16ft thick and surround a cross-shaped inner sanctum. The building was surrounded by a paved outer passage, which experts believe may have formed a labyrinth that would have led people to the heart of the building. (1)

Two stone slabs bearing red, yellow and orange pigment are the first evidence of painted walls ever found in the UK. The paint will be subjected to laboratory analysis to determine its composition. It is probably based upon hematite or limonite, two iron ores found in the region. These would have been finely ground and mixed with animal fat, milk or eggs to create pigments. Since this is the first finding of its kind, it is not known if walls were commonly painted or if this was reserved for ceremonial structures such as the ‘cathedral’ at Ness of Brodgar where the discovery was made. There is speculation that decorative markings carved into the sandstone of the interior walls may also have been enhanced with colour. (4)

 

Other Interesting Discoveries Include:

Red sandstone uprights, the nearest source of which is 12 miles away. (3)

 

This piece of stone was found in Building 12. It shows a triangle, bottom left, and two squares - suggestive of geometry.

 

These two stone cubes were found, they measure about 5 and 8 cm cubed. The small one is a regular sharp edged clear cut cube.

(Photo Credits: goudryan.com)

 

.....Archaeology on the site continues this year: Watch this space.....

 

(Ring of Brodgar)   (Stenness)   (Maes Howe)

(Orkneys Homepage)

(Other Scottish Sites)

 

References:

1). http://www.scotsman.com/news/cathedral-as-old-as-stonehenge-unearthed-1-764826#
2). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2081254/Stone-Age-temple-Orkney-significant-Stonehenge.html
3). http://orkneyarchaeologytours.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/ness-of-brodgar-2009-excavations.html
4). http://celticmythpodshow.com/blog/ancient-interior-design-discovered-in-orkney-scotland/

 

Further Research:

Orkneyjar: http://www.orkneyjar.com/archaeology/nessofbrodgar/

 

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