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The furniture

Picture Sigurd TowrieGiven the shortage of wood in Orkney, the people of Skara Brae made do with the only building material available to them — stone.

The local stone provided the Neolithic builders with a readily available material that could be worked easily and turned into items for use within the household. It is also the reason the village is so well-preserved.

So, without wood to work with, each house was equipped with an extensive assortment of stone furniture. This ranged from cupboards, dressers and beds to shelves and limpet tanks.

Of all the fixtures in Skara Brae, it would appear that the stone dressers were regarded as the most important. The dresser faces the entrance of each house and is, therefore, the first item seen when entering (see photograph, above right).

Picture: Sigurd TowrieAlthough it is perfectly possible that the dresser may have been nothing more than a simple storage unit, it seems more likely that it had an equally important symbolic purpose.

Were the objects displayed on the dresser somehow indicative of the status of the house's occupants? The significance of the position of the dresser is further dealt with on the page detailing the layout of the village.

At the centre of every house, perhaps the most important area, was the hearth, which is dealt with here.

Flanking the hearth are the beds. These were stone-built “boxes” that jut out into the middle of the room. The right-hand bed is always larger that the left-hand bed, which led to the theory that the each house had a specific male and female divide – i.e. the right was the male section, the left female.