Friday, August 23, 2019

Orkney's 5000 Year Old Neolithic Culture

Since I've taken you to Orkney, I can't leave without reminding you about the most spectacular concentration of Neolithic Sites in the World.  Four great stone monuments lie within a few hundred yards of each other, and a stone village is a few kilometres away.

After exploring Kirkwall for a short time we were off to see Skara Brae, a stone-age village built about 3200 B.C.  We walked along the coast of the North Sea a short distance, and there it was.  Buried in sand, it was partly exposed in a violent storm in 1850, and later vandalized, but today it is carefully protected.

The village consists of 5 houses built into the ground, all made of flat slabs of the local sandstone, even with stone furniture!  Originally these homeS had stone roofs, and all were connected by covered passageways.

It was truly remarkable to see the detail that went into construction remembering that they only had stone tools to work with.  Metal wasn't discovered until the later Bronze Age.

Back on the 'Ness' (peninsula) of Brodgar, an amazing Neolithic 'Temple' has been uncovered.  With enormous four-metre thick walls, this is felt to be the centre of the incredible culture that once existed here.  It contains the only evidence of interior painted walls of this age in Europe.  The site was not open to the public when we visited 8 years ago, so this photo is borrowed from the internet.

Within sight are the Stones of Stenness, perhaps the oldest stone circle in Britain.  Originally thought to have 12 standing stones, it now only has three.  It is surrounded by a now-buried ditch 2 metres deep and 7 metres wide dug into the solid bedrock.

The individual stones are incredibly tall (16 feet) and thin to have been standing here for 5000 years!

Nearby is Maeshowe, a Neolithic chambered cairn, one of the largest known.  It is built of those great flat slabs of sandstone, like the stone circles, but here fitted together perfectly.  Remarkably it is aligned so that the sun's rays shine directly in through the long tunnel entrance on the winter solstice.  What astronomic knowledge was required to figure that out?

You can enter the tomb, but no photographs allowed, so this photo is borrowed from the internet too.

From the Stones of Stenness site you can see across the peninsula to the even more spectacular Ring of Brodgar.

A giant stone circle, this was the last of the great stone monuments to be built here, at 'only' 4000-4500 years old.  It consisted of 60 stones, with 27 still standing inside another ditch up to 3 metres deep and 10 metres wide, again dug into the solid bedrock.

It's incredible to think of the man-hours that went into the building of such monuments.  Archeologists interpret that this required a highly organized society to accomplish this.  Pottery finds here and elsewhere, particularly the 'grooved ware pottery', now suggest that this culture originated here and later spread to the great stone-building area at Newgrange in Ireland, to the Stonehenge area in England, and possibly to Egypt.  We forget that sea-going travel between the North Sea, Scotland and Ireland and the Mediterranean was common in this era.

Now off in a distant northern corner of our densely inhabited world, it is hard to believe that this area of Orkney was once the stone-age cultural centre of the world.  Skara Brae, the stone temple and stone monuments all pre-date Newgrange, Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt.  I find it almost impossible to believe, but this monumental stone building culture spread out from Orkney which was its cultural centre.  Sure puts a different perspective on these distant northern isles!


  1. Wow, this is amazing! The 5 little homes and the furniture for you to see. I'll bet your mind just wanders trying to imagine living in those times.
    Fascinating trip, thank you F.G!

  2. What a great place this would be to visit. Are there places to stay nearby? Why no photos? Is it a no flash policy or something else?

  3. I sure would like to visit Orkney.

  4. Maybe a family with more than one generation lived there, with passages so they were not out in the open air and freezing wind. All stone, I wonder how they kept warm, what clothes they wore, and how did they do it all with no tools like what we have today. A site that should be preserved and records kept for all time.

  5. Amazing how old it all is. Very interesting!!!

  6. It's amazing what they did with the technology at the time.

  7. An earth bermed house would have been quite warm, especially if the stone roof was covered with sod. Those folks may not have had the wheel or steel tools, but they weren't dumb and actually were quite ingenious.

  8. Wow! 5000 years old, and still in wonderful shape. You have made me wonder what their civilization was like to accomplish such deeds. Thank you so much for sharing! :-)


  9. شركة المثالية للتنظيف

    شركة المثالية توفر علي ربة المنزل عناء التنظيف، والمواظبة علية بإستمرار، خصوصا وأن ربة المنزل الآن يكون عليها مهام كثيرة شاقة ولا يكون لديها مساحة من الوقت للقيام بمهام التنظيف، وليس فقط التنظيف هي من مهام الشركة بل أن الشركة أيضاً تُقدم مجموعة مُختلفة من الخدمات الأخرى التي تخدم راحة عُملائها، بالإضافة إلي تقديم مُستوي عالي من الكفاءة في تنفيذ الخدمة. خدمات شركة المثالية: ولأن شركة المثالية تقوم علي راحة عُملائها في تقوم بتوفر مجموعة مُختلفة من الخدمات مثل: • تنظيف الستائر. • تنظيف المفروشات. • تنظيف السجاد والموكيت. • تنظيف الكنب. • تنظيف المجالس. • مُكافحة الحشرات. • رش مُبيدات. • تسليك مجاري. حيثُ أن لدينا مجموعة من أكفأ العمُال والأيدي العاملة، بالإضافة إلي اننا يوجد ليدنا أحدث أنواع الأجهزة والماكينات التي تُساعدنا في عملنا، بالإضافة إلي أن المساحيق المُستخدمة في عمليات التنظيف نقوم بإستيرادها من الخارج، وهي مُصرحة من وزارة الصحة ولا ضرر عليها. كما أن شركة المثالية تستقبل تليفونات عُملائها علي المدار اليوم لإستقبال طباتهم وإستفسارتهم بإستمرار. عزيزي العميل نُحاول أن نوفر لك جميع ما تحتاج إلية، علاوة علي ان أسعارنا لا تقبل المُنافسة.

  10. Wow, this is amazing! I did not know of this. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I've read about that place, I would SO love to go there.


  12. افضل خدمات التنظيف بالدمام تجدونها مع شركة تنظيف مسابح بالاحساء شركة المثالية للتنظيف المتفوقة والمتقدمة دائما لانجتزتها وخبرتها الكبيرة التي قدمتها لعملائها بالجودة والمواصفات القياسية بالاسعار المناسبة والجودة العالية بخصومات تصل الي 50% مع الضمان للجودة

    شركة تنظيف مسابح بالدمام

  13. 5000 years...almost impossible to imagine...oh, the mind is trippin'

  14. Orkney has been on my 'must visit' list for a long time, as you can imagine. Good write-up, Stew!