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 Location: Mainland Orkneys, Scotland.  Grid Reference: 59.05° N,  3.34° W.

 

      Skara Brae: (Neolithic Settlement).

Skara Brae, Orkneys, Scotland.

Skara Brae is unique in several ways. Its most important attribute is that it is one of a very small number of surviving Neolithic settlements which allows us to see how the builders of the megalithic period lived.

The living quarters at Skara Brae show several inventive and creative designs which leave no doubt as to the high standard of living that they had achieved.

The arrangement of Skara Brae is suggestive of a pre-planned settlement. The design of the separate quarters are all relatively similar, and as yet, the purpose of Skara Brae is still not known.

 

 

 

   Skara Brae:

Discovered in 1850. The site was protected by the ministry of Works in 1924. The earliest dated remaining buildings are dated at 3,215 BC, but are believed to have replaced earlier ones. It was abandoned suddenly in 2,655 BC. (at the same time as Stonehenge).

 Skara Brae, Orkneys.

(Click on image for larger version).

All the apartments of the ‘village’ are laid out with a similar design. They all have standardised stone cupboards (In one of the stone cupboards a hoard of 2,400 inscribed beads and pendants were found), standard fireplaces, bed-stead's, water tanks and seats. Of the eight apartments, six are linked by a main corridor but the seventh is reached by a separate tunnel running at right angles off the main corridor. There is also a separate house which stands on the far side of a paved open-air courtyard.

skara brae, orkneys, scotland

Each of the houses has a large room with a single entrance fitted with a bolt-securing hole cut in the stone to lock the doors from the inside – except for house seven which has a door that is designed to be bolted from outside. This apartment also was also the only one with a large stone block in the living area, and beneath one of the beds the bodies of two adults had been buried. The bed was inscribed.

 

 In 1850 a great storm pounded the shore of the Bay of Skaill, on Orkney Mainland, leaving the buildings of a Neolithic settlement sticking up through the sand dunes which had covered them. Systematic excavations of the site have been carried out since 1927. Skara Brae's occupants were farmers who bred cows and sheep and grew cereals, but who also hunted red deer and fished. They were skilled craftsmen, working bone and stone, and making pottery; many of the tools, weapons and vessels were richly decorated.

 

Originally the site was set back from the shore: coastal erosion now threatens Skara Brae. The village was planned as a cluster of sub-rectangular huts, with interconnecting passages. Their walls were made of sandstone slabs; corbelled walling probably formed the roofs. On the other hand, whale jawbones discovered on the floor of one hut were perhaps originally rafters supporting a thatched roof.


    

All the houses had a similar interior design: against the wall facing the door was the dresser (a couple of flagstone shelves supported on stone 'legs'). This may have been the display case for the family's prized possession, carefully positioned to impress visitors. In the centre of each hut was a rectangular hearth; along each side wall was a bed, constructed of three slabs set upright to form a 'box', the house wall forming the fourth side. Above the beds were recesses, and a common feature of the hut interiors is a 'limpet box': a slab-built tank made watertight by clay caulking.

 

    Excavation evidence seems to indicate that the village's occupants left in a hurry, perhaps fleeing a storm similar to the one which uncovered the site.

 

Amongst the finds at Skara Brae, were some intricately carved stone ‘ball-like-objects’. Around 400 similar, but less ornate, stone balls have been found in other parts of Scotland between the River Tay and the Moray Firth. Carved chalk balls have been found at megalithic sites in both Ireland (Creevykeel), and in Brittany. Their purpose can only be speculated at today.

(More about the Scottish Stone Balls)

(Other Scottish Sites)

 

 

References:

2). A. Service and J. Bradbury. Megaliths  and their Mysteries. 1979. Macmillan Publ.

 

 
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