Still in the Stone Age

Still around 5,000 years back in time, today we visited more of ‘The heart of Neolithic Orkney’ which is a World Heritage site. Although we did see more remains of stone-age dwellings at Barnhouse Village…

Barnhouse village

…the structures which were of primary interest however, were ones with likely ceremonial origins. The Ring of Brodgar was our first port of call. This is one of the most well-preserved prehistoric monuments in the British Isles. A near perfect circle, 36 out of up to 60 original stones survive. The ring is 104 metres in diameter and was constructed between 4,500 and 4,000 years ago. Archaeologists think that the stones fulfilled a ceremonial purpose. Each stone had been quarried from a different part of Orkney and it’s only in the last twelve months that it’s been discovered that each stone is positioned to face the location of its origin!

Ring of Brodgar

Ring of brodgar

Nearby another, older ring of stones exists; the Stones of Steness. This is a smaller circle at 30 metres in diameter. This circle has a central hearth which may have been transferred from the near-by Barnhouse village, once again suggesting a ceremonial or social purpose to the site.

Stones of stenness

stones of stenness

Between these two henges sits the Ness of Brodgar Settlement, only unearthed in 2008. Much more work is required on this site and will restart in July.

Ness of Brodgar

And finally, within sight of all these Neolithic structures is Maeshowe Tomb. This is the finest chambered tomb in north-western Europe. It consists of a grassy mound that sits on a large circular platform surrounded by a ditch and, beyond this, a bank.


The mound contains a long stone passage, (serious crouching to get through!) leading to an elaborate, stone-lined chamber with side cells. No pictures I’m afraid as we weren’t allowed to take photographs but if you’re interested in seeing the inside then click here Interestingly, the passageway into the tomb is aligned with light from the setting sun on the shortest day of the year, the 21st December. There’s a web cam in the tomb so you can visit the above website on and around that date to see how the light plays inside the building.
Also of interest is that in the 1100s, those pesky Vikings broke into the tomb, presumably ran off with any skeletal remains and decorated parts of the walls with what is essentially runic graffiti with comments such as “Arnfinn, son of Steinn carved these runes” and “Jerusalem men broke this mound”!


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6 Responses to “Still in the Stone Age”

  1. RecyclerSA Says:

    Fascinating …. keep them coming 🙂 Laura

  2. cecilia Says:

    When I was in the UK I visited a lesser know ring of stones, they were very small, very old and had sheep grazing next to the historic society hut, it was a bit of a hike to get to.. a lost place.. deeply striking though, ones mind flies to all the possibilities!.. c

    • garybuie01 Says:

      Absolutely! It’s an almost eerie feeling, walking on a spot where you know that someone else walked 5,000 years ago. Someone who was far more able at this self-sufficiency malarkey than I am, that’s for sure!

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