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The network of access passages

Picture Sigurd TowrieA winding network of low, narrow stone passages linked the houses of Skara Brae.

This meant it was possible to travel from one house to another without having to step outside - not a bad thing in the midst of an Orkney winter!

Just over one metre high, the passages were roofed with stone slabs, before being covered over with a layer of insulating midden.

The low height of the passages not only helped minimise drafts but could have served a symbolic, or possibly even a defensive, purpose.

One main passage led into the village.

A bar-hole at either side of this passageway's main entrance indicates that it could be sealed. Like the chambered cairns, to enter the village the visitor was forced to kneel, or stoop.

Then, perhaps after a brief period of disorientation, the visitor would have encountered a series of dark, winding, passages that led to distinct havens of warmth and light.

Bar-holes were found along the length of the passages - of which only two remain and are visible today - and also at the entrance of each house.

The door to each of the dwellings consisted of a large slab of stone, big enough to fill the low entrance gap. When this was closed it was held in place by a bar slotted into the bar-holes.