Skara Brae: the Best Preserved Neolithic Village in Europe
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Skara Brae: the Best Preserved Neolithic Village in Europe

Exploring a fascinating and well preserved neolithic village which is older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge and found on one of the Orkney Islands in the North of Scotland.

Skara Brae is a neolithic village found on the Bay of Skaill in the Mainland Island of the Orkney Islands. The Orkney Islands are an archipelago of about 70 islands located about 10 miles north of Scotland. The origins of the village probably go back to about 3100 BC (to put this into some perspective it is actually older than the Pyramids) when it was situated in a field but 5000 years of coastal erosion means that it is now on the shore. Skara Brae had been covered for thousands of years by sand dunes and was discovered after a storm in 1850, there have been several excavations since.

© Copyright M J Richardson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Due to lack of trees on the island, the houses themselves and most of the tools and objects (including furniture) had to be made of stone which allowed for their preservation in very good conditions. The village consisted of about ten stone huts with only one room each, they were made of slabs of stone taken from the beach, they had a small doorway that could be closed at night with another slab of stone. All the huts were connected to each other by a series of low tunnels, the village also had a primitive sewage system and every hut was connected to it. It is possible that there were a few more buildings that were later lost to the sea and erosion.

© Copyright John Allan and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Among the objects found there were weapons, ceremonial objects, pottery and pendants and other jewellery made of animal bones and even carved teeth of killer whales. There are still several peculiar carved stone balls which can be seen in the Skara Brae Museum. Objects were very decorated with geometric shapes which showed that this neolithic society had some degree of sophistication and certainly gave some importance to wealth and status. The big mystery is what happened to the settlement at the end; one body of opinion thinks that the settlement was abandoned following a change of climate around 2500 B.C. As the earth became colder, at this latitude it could have become too cold to live comfortably and people migrated elsewhere.

© Copyright C Michael Hogan and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Another theory says that the island was hit by a bad storm and therefore the settlement had a drammatic end. As in the case of Pompeii the end could have come suddenly and taken everyone by surprise. Now the village together with other neolithic remains in the Mainland island of Orkney os one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Unfortunately the same sand that has protected Skara Brae for several millennia is also its main enemy, in fact major investment is required to protect Skara Brae from further coastal erosion and to save Europe's best preserved Neolithic village.

In the following video you will see more pictures of Skara Brae and the surrounding areas and will hear more information about its history. 

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Comments (1)

An interesting place I haven't heard of but just now. Thanks for sharing.