Thursday, August 25, 2016

SCOTLAND: Scientists are Baffled by a Bizarre 5,400-year-old Structure

   A mysterious stone structure that could be among the oldest buildings in Scotland has been unearthed beneath the remains of a Neolithic rubbish.
    Archaeologists discovered the huge stone slabs, some more than 13 feet (4m) long, while excavating a Stone Age midden at Ness of Brodgar in Orkney.
   The stones appear to have formed part of the walls of a huge 33 feet (10m) wide building that could be up to 5,400 years old.

Experts say the stones appear to have been used as 'cladding' on the inner walls of an ancient building and may have originally been part of a dismantled stone circle.

   The slabs, known as orthostats, have rounded edges and appear to have been weathered or worked in the same way as standing stones found at Stenness just 0.3 miles away.

   Nick Card, an archaeologist at the University of the Highlands and Islands and site director for the excavation, said: 'The sheer size and scale of the stones unearthed are unprecedented on this site.

  'The way the stones are built into the construction is also unique to the Ness. This all suggests that they may have been re-used and taken from elsewhere.

  'Perhaps they may be part of a stone circle that pre-dates the main Ness site. It is all a bit of mystery.'

   Archaeologists have spent the past few weeks excavating the midden – an ancient rubbish tip – on the Ness of Brodgar in a bid to find out more about those who used it.

   It is one of the largest Neolithic middens in the north of Scotland, which is thought to have served a settlement on the site.

   Excavations have revealed the remains of a Neolithic settlement elsewhere on the site, including several houses and what is thought to have even been a temple.

   Pottery, stone tools and a clay figurine have also been uncovered at the site. Last month a human arm bone was uncovered at the site.

It is thought to have been inhabited between 3,200BC and 2,200BC, around the same time as the more famous Skara Brae, which is just a few miles away on Orkney.

   Mr. Card and his colleagues believe the new stone structure they have unearthed predates this and may have been one of the original buildings on the site.

   It appears to have been built using carefully placed, large stone masonry to create the outer walls while the face of the inner walls were much rougher.

   However, these would have been hidden behind the upright orthostates.

   One of these was found lying prone to help support the upright slabs and pin them against the wall.

   Archaeologists have still to unearth the entire structure so have no real grasp of just how large it could have been.

   They are also baffled by what it could have been used for. Some theories include that it had been a chambered tomb or had some religious significance.

   More baffling, however, is why it was then covered in the rubbish from the nearby settlement.

   Mr. Card said: 'We won't know more until we do more work.'


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