Major Archaeological Discoveries on Orkney

Long-time readers of this blog will recall that I’ve mentioned the excavations of the Ness of Brodgar site on a couple of occasions. Situated on the strip of land between two lochs and between the famous Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness as well as the nearby Maes Howe, work started there in earnest in 2007 after earlier digs in 2004 had hinted at something major.

I confess that through pressure of work I’d rather lost touch with the latest developments until I caught a TV programme on the BBC last night. Neil Oliver, well known for the Coast programme and a series of Scottish history programs, is actually an archaeologist and in this special edition of A History of Ancient Britain: Orkney’s Stone Age Temple he outlines the astonishing discoveries that have been made on this site in the last few years. If you are in a country that can view the BBC iPlayer I urge you to take a look while it’s still available to view. This could well be THE most important stone age discovery, eclipsing everything else on Orkney (which takes some doing!) and even the Stonehenge and Avebury complex.

If you can’t see the program then take a look at the Orkneyjar site – particularly and  and for a couple of panoramas of the dig site try  and

The discoveries are too numerous to attempt to list in the slightest detail here – a series of complex stone structures which suggest a temple complex which may have been associated with ancestor worship, two large (2 metre wide) walls which appear to have run the width of the Ness and funnelled people into a predetermined path, the first examples of painted neolithic walls in the UK or northern Europe, a number of mace-heads apparently broken deliberately, a number of “dressers” similar to the ones found in domestic areas of Skara Brae but here appearing to be free standing and possibly used as altars, a figurine which has been nicknamed the Brodgar Boy, and a mass of cattle bones which appears to suggest a large ceremonial feast.

There are probably decades worth of work still to be done on the site and an anonymous benefactor has bought the land on which the site stands along with the house for the people of Orkney. I look forward to reading of the discoveries and theories around this site for many years to come.



Major Archaeological Discoveries on Orkney — 4 Comments

  1. This is just amazing, isn’t it! I’d give anything to be able to see the BBC show and David and i would so like to get to Orkney….maybe someday…..

  2. Hi Michele, you really should try and get there – preferably in June when the sun hardly sets at all. It’s a magical place and everywhere you look there’s ancient history. I’d love to go back and explore more of the smaller islands. If it were only easier to get to I’d suggest having the DDS AGM there!

  3. I would love to go and see this site. I caught Neil Oliver’s History of Ancient and Celtic Britain shows and they were wonderful. I’m of scottish ancestry and was born and raised in Canada. I went in 2008 and completely fell in love with all of it. You are all so very lucky to have your history all around you, at all times. You really know from where you come from and that is almost the biggest gift the ancients could have given you.

  4. There is more history around us here in Edinburgh than we natives ever really appreciate, but in Orkney you can hardly take a step without stumbling over something ancient. It’s such an atmospheric place and the people are so friendly. Just a pity it isn’t a little warmer most of the year!

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