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2.1 Where and when was it build
2.1.1 Skara Brae, on the southern shore ofSandwick,Orkney, was a late Neolithic settlementthat was inhabited
between 3200 and 2200 BC. Situated on the western edge ofthe largestof the Orkney islands,Mainland,Skara Brae
bore the brunt of the storms coming in from the west.It was a harsh environment,the island being generallyflat and
Eight prehistoric houses,connected by low covered passageways,have survived. The village was revealed by a
winter storm in 1850. A series ofarchaeological excavations uncovered the Neolithic village.Seven of the houses
have stone dressers,beds and seats.The eighth building is divided into small areas and mayhave been used as a
workshop as fragments ofantler and bone were found in it. The discovery proved to be the best-preserved Neolithic
village in northern Europe.And so it remains today.
2.2 Context, building period & evolution
2.2.1 In the winter of 1850, a ferocious gale hammered the westcoastof the Orkney mainland sending huge waves
crashing againstthe shore.In the Bay of Skaill these ripped away the turf and underlying sand to reveal the remains
of a Stone Age village,Skara Brae. The settlementwas exposed to daylightfor the firsttime in nearly four and a half
thousand years.The group of six houses and a workshop is connected bya covered close,and all the buildings
except for the workshop were buried to the tops of the walls by midden. Everything in the houses was necessarily
made of stone,including seats,beds and cupboards.The builders even incorporated stone sewers and drains
underneath the stone floors so that the people need notventure outside in the harshestofweathers.
This clay-like mixture of refuse consists ofashes,shells,bones,sand and other domestic detritus and has been a
major factor in protecting the site from erosion.It seems thatthe occupants had builtthe midden around their houses
intentionallyas an integral part of the construction.It appears to have been stored and used deliberatelyrather than
piled round existing houses.Damp-proofcourses had also been invented over 5,000 years ago.The foundations of
the houses have a layer of blue clay in the bottom course which would have worked as well as polythene does
today. The profound importance ofthis remarkable site was given official recognition in 1999 when it was inscribed
upon the World Heritage Listas part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.
2.2.2 The inhabitants ofSkara Brae were not only Ancient Egyptians, they were Ancient Egyptian Priest
Astronomers. As Skara Brae was settled in the Age of Taurus,the Bull,a person would expect to find evidence of this
astronomical time atthe site,probably in the shape of bull’s horns.Such evidence has been discovered in the shape
of a stylized bull’s head.
This stone artefact, which looks not unlike a gavel, would have been used in ceremonial ritual.The term Skara Brae
Stylized Bull’s Head Gavel or Skara Brae Taurus Stone was coined for the reason. Both the Skara Brae Sphere and
the Skara Brae Stylized Bull’s Head Gavel or Taurus Stone are symbols ofthe Precession ofthe Equinoxes. The
importance ofHouse Seven at Skara Brae is evident, and as such it would have been occupied by the ChiefPriest.
Moreover it would have been here that the ritual ceremonies ofAncient Egypt would have been re-enacted.The
villagers were farmers,hunters and fishermen,capable ofproducing items ofbeauty and sophistication with
rudimentarytechnology.No weapons have been found and the settlementwas notin a readily defended location,
suggesting a peaceful life.
2.2.3 The man chosen for the job was a brilliantAustralian named Vere Gordon Childe (shown below on the ladder)
who had recently become holder ofthe Abercrombie Chair of Archaeology at Edinburgh University. He made a
thorough record of the site and recognized the fact that there was more than one phase of occupation.
There were at leastthree principal phases ofconstruction atSkara Brae, representing atleast six centuries of
occupation,from about3100-2500 BC. As was the custom throughout,the earliesthouses were builtusing midden
material in the construction oftheir walls,implying the existence of an even earlier settlement.These walls consisted
of an inner and an outer skin of dry stone with the space in between filled with the aforesaid midden material which
served as insulation.In fact, the whole village was builthollows scooped outof a large heap of the stuff and it was
packed up againstthe walls and on top of the roofs. Building 8 (Below) sits all by itselfon the westside of the village.
It has a distinctappearance and,apartfrom the hearth, it has none of the usual furnishings—no beds,no limpet
boxes and no 'dresser'.Instead,there is much more storage space and an additional room.Childe found a lotof
debris from the manufacture of flint tools and burnt volcanic stones and so interpreted the building as a workshop.
However, it may have had a more formal role as a meeting house for the community,possiblyeven involving
2.2.4 Site Plan
2.2.7 The inhabitants ofSkara Brae erected the twelve Stones of Stenness in a perfect circle to representthe Twelve
Signs of the Zodiac and eventually thirteen tombs were erected on Mainland Orkney to representthe Lunar Zodiac.
2.2.8 Village life appears to have ended around 2,500 BC. No one knows why. Some argue that it was because a
huge sandstorm engulfed their houses,others thatit was more gradual.
As village life came to an end, new monuments were beginning to rise up on mainland Orkney, including most
importantlythe chambered tomb atMaes Howe and the impressive stone circles atthe Ring of Brodgar and
Stenness.No evidence has been found of anything which could have not come from Orkney, suggesting a self-
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Owen, J. (2014). Skara Brae: Prehistoric Scottish Village. Retrieved April 21, 2015,
Scotland's History.(2013). Skara Brae.Retrieved April 12, 2015,
Tait, C. (2002). Orkney's Neolithic Village. Retrieved April 12, 2015,from
Visit Scotland.(2015). Skara Brae Prehistoric Village. Retrieved April 21, 2015,