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A Report by Andrew Collins
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Skara Brae

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« on: May 30, 2007, 01:30:14 pm »

Excavated dwellings at Skara Brae, Europe's most complete Neolithic village.
Skara Brae (pronounced /ˈskɑrə breɪ/) is a large stone-built Neolithic settlement, located in the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of mainland Orkney, Scotland. The level of preservation is such that it has gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status. It is one of four such Scottish sites, the others being the Old Town and New Town of Edinburgh; New Lanark in South Lanarkshire; and St Kilda in the Western Isles. It is Europe's most complete Neolithic village.

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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2007, 01:32:08 pm »

Skara Brae evidence of home furnishings i.e. shelves.

Discovery of Skara Brae

Until 1850, Skara Brae lay under years of soil sediment. It was fully excavated between 1928 and 1930 by Vere Gordon Childe.

Skara Brae's inhabitants were apparently makers and users of Grooved Ware. The houses used earth sheltering but, being sunk into the ground, they were built into mounds of pre-existing rubbish known as "middens". Although the midden provided the houses with a small degree of stability, its most important purpose was to act as a layer of insulation against Orkney's harsh winter climate. On average, the houses measure 40 square metres in size with a large square room containing a large hearth which would have been used for heating and cooking. As few trees grow on the island, the people of Skara Brae used driftwood and whalebone, with turf thatch, to roof their dwellings.

The dwellings contain a number of stone-built pieces of furniture, including cupboards, dressers, seats, and storage boxes. A sophisticated drainage system was even incorporated into the village's design, one that included a primitive form of toilet in each dwelling. Seven of the houses have similar furniture, with the beds and dresser in the same places in each house. The dresser stands against the wall opposite the door, and would have been the first thing anyone entering the dwelling would see. The eighth house has no storage boxes or dresser, but has been divided into something resembling small cubicles. When this house was excavated, fragments of stone, bone and antler were found. It is possible that this building was used as a workshop to make simple tools such as bone needles or Flint Axes.

A comparable if smaller site exists at Rinyo on Rousay Island. Unusually, no Maeshowe-type tombs have been found on Rousay and although there are a large number of Orkney-Cromarty chambered cairns, these were built by Unstan ware people.

Skara Brae is believed to have been occupied from about 3100 BC, for about six hundred years. Around 2500 BC, after the climate changed, turning much colder and wet, the settlement may have been abandoned by its inhabitants. There are many theories as to why the people of Skara Brae suddenly left, but there is no solid evidence suggesting why this occurred.

Skara Brae in popular culture

The Bard's Tale and Ultima computer role-playing games (see Britannia) also feature cities named "Skara Brae". The children's novel The Boy with the Bronze Axe (Floris Books, 2005), by Kathleen Fidler, is set during the last days of Skara Brae.
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