Stonehenge houses highlight the importance of Orcadian archaeology

Picture: Sigurd Towrie

Interior of Skara Brae house.

The discovery of a number of houses near Stonehenge could lead to a better understanding of the ongoing excavations on the Ness o’ Brodgar in Stenness.

But it is equally as likely that Orkney’s beautifully-preserved archaeology could shed light on the work being carried out around the Wiltshire World Heritage Site.

Excavations at Durrington Walls have uncovered traces of number of wooden Neolithic houses – practically identical to the stone houses still standing in Skara Brae today (pictured).

The structures were part of a settlement that is not only thought to have housed the builders of Stonehenge but was also part of the larger ceremonial landscape, and the activities carried out therein.

The village, it is suggested, became a “pilgrimage” site – a place where people stayed during the ceremonies and feasts involving Stonehenge. Analysis of pigs’ teeth found at the site indicates that the animals were butchered at midwinter, perhaps to provide the meat for the “festivities”.

The discovery has intriguing parallels with the ongoing work on the Ness of Brodgar, where Orkney Archaeological Trust experts have unearthed a substantial settlement between the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar.

Archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson thinks that Durrington and Stonehenge represent the realms of living and the dead, respectively—a theory he has previously suggested could apply to the Stenness and Brodgar megaliths.

Theories aside, what is clear is that the central hearth surrounded by “box” beds and the dresser, emphasises the importance of Orcadian Neolithic archaeology, not just at a regional level but at a national/international level.

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