Skara Brae is probably the best preserved neolithic settlement in Britain. Overlooking the Bay of Skaill, it gives us an insight into the lives of our Orkney ancestors.
In 1850, severe storms and high tides eroded the sands to give early glimpses of the settlement and over the years, archaeological excavations have revealed one of the most “in tact” neolithic human habitations, occupied for at least 500 years from around 3100 to 2500 BC.
A group of seven dwellings is connected by winding narrow “streets” which are capped with stone and covered by midden. These narrow “hobbit like” passage ways would have given great protection from the winds and rain.
All of the houses are of a similar design, a central space with alcoves fashioned from the stone. In the centre of the main room would have been a large hearth, where the fire would have kept the dwelling cosy and provided cooking facilities.
One or two small cupboards or rooms led from the main space and may have been used for storage, but recent discoveries have shown that in some cases, these were actually indoor toilets. Coprolites (fossils of human faeces) have been found along with evidence of drainage channels….let’s face it, anybody who knows the Orkney weather, would understand the need for this neolithic en suite bathroom.
It is thought that the houses would have been roofed in turf, bracken and midden, possibly laid on timbers pitched to a point at the ceiling.
Artifacts found at the Skara Brae site include; jewellery, bone tools, stone pot lids and carved stone objects.
Orkneyjar – Find out more about Skara Brae and Orkney’s neolithic past.
Historic Scotland – Skara Brae details and visitor information.