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Links of Noltland (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — News

'Ritual Building' found
wideford Posted by wideford
25th September 2015ce

Sands of Time: Domestic Rituals at the Links of Noltland

This is a long article in Current Archaeology filed under news, not sure if it is news but interesting all the same, go to the link for photos...

January 17, 2013 By Carly Hilts

Rapid erosion has revealed spectacular Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeology on the coast of Westray, Orkney. Contemporary with the Ness of Brodgar’s religious monuments but with a domestic focus, what can this settlement tell us about daily life in prehistoric Orkney?

Hazel Moore and Graeme Wilson explained.

Overlooking the North Atlantic on the island of Westray, the Links of Noltland boasts an impressive prehistoric landscape stretching over 4ha. Comprising the well-preserved remains of over 20 buildings – including Neolithic structures contemporary with, and comparable to, the famous ‘village’ at Skara Brae – together with extensive middens, field systems, and a cemetery, the site is revolutionising knowledge of Neolithic and Bronze Age Orkney.
Noltland’s wealth of archaeological features is in danger of being lost, however. Facing into the wind and exposed to almost constant salt spray, the site is at severe risk of erosion, with the dune system that has protected it for millennia rapidly depleting. Designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a property in care of Scottish Ministers, managed on their behalf by Historic Scotland, the settlement has been closely monitored for change since the 1980s, but by 2005 it was clear that – for reasons still not fully understood – the scale of erosion was accelerating at an unprecedented level. Matters had become urgent.

In response, Historic Scotland launched a rolling campaign of assessment and conservation works, and rescue excavations undertaken by EASE Archaeology, directed by the authors and project managed by Historic Scotland Senior Archaeologist Richard Strachan. Since 2006 these have revealed a large number of hitherto unsuspected Neolithic and Bronze Age remains, with a highlight of the most recent season being the discovery of two carved stone figurines similar to the celebrated ‘Orkney Venus’ (CA 236).
Local soil conditions favour the preservation of skeletal material, meaning that there is a large amount of animal bone available for study, providing valuable opportunities to examine husbandry and butchery practices. Such bones, from both wild and domesticated animals, were crafted into a wide range of tools and decorative objects from beads and elaborate dress pins to mattocks, awls, polishers, and points. Bone-working debris is rarely encountered on archaeological sites of this period, and study of this material is providing a glimpse of manufacturing processes employed by prehistoric craftsmen.

Neolithic Noltland
While the Neolithic remains at the Links of Noltland bear comparison with those at Skara Brae on Orkney Mainland in terms of both age and architecture, at Noltland erosion of the ground surface over such a large area has permitted a far more extensive investigation of the site’s hinterland, making it possible to examine the settlement’s evolution over a long duration. Beginning in the 3rd millennium BC and enduring into the Bronze Age, the site’s inhabitants saw dramatic changes to both their built and natural environments during the settlement’s lifespan.

In Structure 10 we found structural modifications suggesting that the building had seen later phases of occupation, with tantalising glimpses of the original walls visible beneath. These were extremely well constructed, and it appears that the interior was deliberately backfilled with midden material and rubble prior to the later use. From this infill material we recovered a carved stone ball – an enigmatic type of prehistoric artefact found mostly in Scotland, with five discovered at Skara Brae alone. While the purpose of these objects is still open to debate, with suggestions ranging from ceremonial use to a function as a projectile for taking down wild animals, this was a significant find since few have been found in secure archaeological contexts, most coming to light as stray finds.

The earliest occupational evidence revealed by our excavations so far was a farmstead, dated to at least 2800-2500 BC. Set inside a stone-walled enclosure, this complex stood on a ridge surrounded by cultivated fields, with its finest, and perhaps earliest, building (Structure 10) in the centre, constructed from neatly coursed quarried stone. Over time, more buildings were added and older elements were modified and reused, creating a series of closely packed rooms and passages. We investigated the interiors of two (Structures 10 and 19) during the most recent phase of work. These represent two of the larger rooms, both rectilinear in form, with upright stones used to divide up internal space.

Structure 19, by contrast, appears to be one of the later buildings within the complex. While radiocarbon dating results are still awaited, the structure was found to have been built over the original enclosure wall. It was entered via a narrow entrance passage that opened into a central floor area surrounded by peripheral recesses or ‘box-beds’, which were separated from the main space with upright slabs, one measuring over 2m in length. Opposite the entrance were the footings of a dresser similar to those seen in houses at Skara Brae, while later floor layers inside the structure produced very large quantities of decorated Grooved Ware pottery dating to the early 3rd millennium BC, together with a wide range of stone and bone tools.

Midden management
The settlement is surrounded by extensive contemporary middens. These are directly responsible for the preservation of many of the site’s buildings, absorbing the structures as they fell out of use. They are also proving a productive source of new information about the settlement. While Noltland’s house-proud inhabitants generally kept their floors clean, discarding few artefacts inside the structures, the middens hold a vast amount of material, in places reaching over 1m in depth.

We have excavated considerable areas of midden to reveal the structures hidden beneath, and in so doing, we recognised that at Noltland these were not merely refuse heaps – they were used for a variety of activities, including animal butchery and craft working. Stone pathways lead through the deposits, while specific areas appear to be reserved for specific activities. There are butchery zones, for example, where we found rough ‘skaill knives’ made from split beach pebbles, as well as worked flints that would have been used to dismember animals. Elsewhere, caches of tools such as bone mattocks and bead-making debris suggest that, in addition to sourcing their raw materials, bone implements were being manufactured here as well.

Close analysis of this wealth of discarded material has provided many details of what life was like at Neolithic Noltland. We now know that the inhabitants were predominantly cattle farmers, but also kept sheep; that they had access to abundant wild resources including numerous species of bird and fish, together with deer, marine mammals and shellfish; that they cultivated barley, and that their dogs regularly came to gnaw at the meaty scraps of bone. We can reconstruct other aspects of their world from the farming and craftworking tools that they left behind, alongside decorative items such as dress pins and beads, as well as worked shell.

One of the most exciting aspects of the midden investigations has been the discovery of bizarre ‘compositions’, consciously and sometimes elaborately arranged groups of materials. In one instance, a scallop shell was placed between the horns of a sheep skull while a flint tool was set inside. In another, numerous animal jawbones were arranged together, perhaps votive offerings associated with the killing and butchering of animals. We have also noticed composite items of bone and clay, equally tantalising, but sadly less well preserved.

Outside the clustered farmstead, several other Neolithic buildings have been identified during our work, including two houses with a cruciform interior. The first (Structure 9), located just outside the enclosure wall, had 28 cattle skulls, two of which have been dated to the mid-3rd millennium BC. Deliberately placed within its foundations, they would have been an important gesture from this community of cattle farmers. Standing further apart, the other building

(Structure 7) – home to the site’s second dresser – seems to have been enclosed by a series of ‘casement’ walls – concentric ‘skins’ of stone, producing massively thick structures.
The most complete building to have been excavated at Noltland so far, however, is a subterranean house and annex (Structure 18), isolated from the other structures and of very different construction. Dubbed the ‘Grobust house’ after the bay it overlooks, the structure was built in a large pit cut into a sand dune and comprises two unequal sized rooms joined by a passage. While Noltland’s other buildings are freestanding, the Grobust house has revetted drystone walls. In places still standing up to 1.1m high, these are probably preserved to almost the original roof height.

Originally discovered and partially excavated by Dr. David Clarke of the National Museums of Scotland in the late 1970?s – who revealed that part of the building may have been deliberately filled with soil at the end of its life, from which large numbers of flint tools, worked bone, pottery and stone objects, were recovered – there was a lag of over 30 years before work resumed on the house. This was the main focus of our 2012 excavation, during which the last remnants of infill were removed. With the interior of the building finally fully uncovered, we were able to explore the house’s entire layout for the first time.
moss Posted by moss
18th January 2013ce

Archaeologists find "unprecedented" third prehistoric figurine beneath Links of Notland

Since 2007, excavations to rescue irreplaceable archaeological remains being lost to erosion beneath the Links of Notland on the Orkney Island of Westray have unearthed a fascinating and valuable hoard of Neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts.

The latest to emerge from the depths of pre-history is a third hand-carved stone figurine, which joins two similar Bronze Age carved figures found at the site. The first, discovered in 2009, is believed to be the earliest artistic representation of the human form ever found in the British Isles.

All three are now to be displayed at the Westray Heritage Centre, where the public will be able to see for themselves the level of artistry and invention of our prehistoric ancestors and find out more about the Notland settlements and other material uncovered there.

But it is the trio of figurines which is eliciting most excitement. Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop led a visit from the Scottish Cabinet today and described them as an “unprecedented find”.

“The level of artistry, workmanship and skill demonstrated by these and the other finds at Links of Noltland clearly shows that our ancestors of 5000 years ago were a cultured and intelligent community,” added the Minister.

“It also allows us to speculate about what motivated and inspired them – were these used in ritual, what significance did they have and how common were they?

In 2009 an exhibition showing the first figurine, known as the Westray Wifey or Orkney Venus, toured around Scotland and was seen by more than 100,000 people before it returned to the Westray Heritage Centre where it has helped to increase visitor figures.

Excavations at the site which has attracted interest from archaeologists since the 19th century, will resume in September and the public are welcome to visit.

•You can see the figurines and other exhibits at the Westray Heritage Centre, Pierowall ,Westray, KW17 2BZ. Contact 01857 677414 or for more information.

Taken from Culture24 - Richard Moss
moss Posted by moss
29th August 2012ce

Interim Links of Noltland report launched

"The interim report on the ongoing excavations at the Links of Notland, in Westray, has been published by Historic Scotland.

Shifting Sands: Links of Noltland, Westray presents an interim account of the excavation findings so far. It documents some of the most remarkable discoveries, including the Westray Wife and the "Cattle Skull Building" with its foundation deposit of skulls built into the walls.

The Links of Noltland site lies on the exposed coastline of Westray and was buried beneath sand dunes until recently. With the rapid onset of erosion, the prehistoric remains were exposed and at extreme risk of being lost forever. A major programme of fieldwork, commissioned by Historic Scotland, is now being undertaken by EASE Archaeology. Discoveries include a Neolithic farmstead, field walls, cultivation remains and artefact-rich middens, together with six Bronze Age buildings and a contemporary cemetery.

Written by Hazel Moore and Graeme Wilson, the archaeologists in charge of the dig, the report also describes the Bronze Age remains, which represent the largest and most complete settlement of this date in Orkney.

The report provides an up-to-date statement on the archaeological discoveries, together with specialist analysis of artefacts recovered during the excavation.

Shifting Sands: Links of Noltland costs £12.95."
goffik Posted by goffik
25th February 2011ce

Orkney Venus Misses Out on Archaeology Award.

A tiny neolithic figurine from Orkney has missed out on a prize at this year's British Archaeological Awards.

The 5,000-year-old Orkney Venus, which was discovered during excavations in the island of Westray in August last year, is the earliest representation of the human form found in Scotland.

It was up for Best Discovery at British Museum awards in London.

But the title went to the Staffordshire Hoard - the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold - discovered in 2009.

The Orkney Venus, a female carving, is just 4cm tall and composed of sandstone.

more at
The Eternal Posted by The Eternal
20th July 2010ce

Second Orkney Venus Found at Orkney Dig.

Archaeologists have unearthed a second ancient figurine at a dig on Orkney.

The discovery was made at the same site as the Orkney Venus, the earliest representation of a human figure to be found in Scotland.

The Orkney Venus, a 5,000-year-old female carving which was found last summer, was just 4cm tall and composed of sandstone.

The new find is the same size and shape as the original Venus but is made of clay and is missing its head.

The older Venus is one of three finds which have been shortlisted for Best Discovery at the 2010 British Archaeological Awards.

Both pieces were found at a Historic Scotland dig at the Links of Noltland on the island of Westray.

Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said: "It is excellent news that a second figurine has been found at the Links of Noltland dig, giving our team of archaeologists more information in piecing together what we can know about the lives of our ancient ancestors on Westray.

"Although these figurines are tiny, their significance is huge and it's exciting to speculate whether there may be more, waiting to be discovered."

The Orkney Venus, known locally as the Westray Wife, is currently on display at the Westray Heritage Centre.

It has already been viewed by more than 100,000 people as part of a special Historic Scotland touring exhibition which has visited Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Kilmartin House in Argyll and Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness.

The carving features a human face with heavy brows, two dots for eyes and an oblong for a nose.

A pair of circles on the chest has been interpreted as representing breasts, and arms have been etched at either side. A pattern of crosses suggests some form of fabric.

Its name comes from its resemblance to similar figurines classed as Venuses from elsewhere in Europe and beyond.

The Orkney Venus is facing strong competition in Monday's British Archaeological Awards.

The carving is up against a collection of copper and tin ingots discovered by divers off the coast of South Devon, and the Staffordshire hoard - the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.
The Eternal Posted by The Eternal
18th July 2010ce

Links of Noltland (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Links

Westray Heritage Centre

history, pics and blog
wideford Posted by wideford
1st July 2010ce

Links of Noltland (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Miscellaneous

this season's dig has begun and they now have 30 ox skulls in the foundations for which they can find nothing similar in Scotland [though J.W. Cursiter mentions the 1901 uncovering by storm near Skara Brae of a 3' deep ox midden 100' long, beneath which another storm two years later disclosed a building]. wideford Posted by wideford
1st July 2010ce

Links of Noltland (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — News

Orkney Venus closes in on key prize 5,000 years after Neolithic creation

The Orkney Venus has been named in a shortlist of three for the Best Archaeological Discovery category in the 2010 biannual British Archaeological Awards.

The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony at the British Museum on 19 July.

The 5,000-year-old Orkney Venus attracted worldwide interest when it was discovered last summer by archaeologists working on the Historic Scotland excavation at the Links of Noltland, on Westray. The 4cm figure in sandstone is the only known Neolithic carving of a human form to have been found in Scotland.

The enigmatic figure – known locally as the Westray Wife – had lain undisturbed in the earth until the archaeologists carefully brushed away the mud to reveal the human face with heavy brows, two dots for eyes and an oblong for a nose, staring back at them.

A pair of circles on the chest have been interpreted as representing breasts, and arms have been etched at either side. A pattern of crosses suggests the fabric of clothing.

Its name comes from its resemblance to similar figurines classed as Venuses from elsewhere in Europe and beyond.

The figure is currently on public display for the first time on the island where it was found, at the Westray Heritage Centre.

It has already been viewed by more than 100,000 people as part of a special Historic Scotland touring exhibition taking in venues including Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Kilmartin House in Argyll and Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness.

It will finish in October at the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall.

Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland's head of cultural resources, said: "The Orkney Venus is the first replica of the human form to be found in Scotland and is possibly the best and earliest to be found in the UK.

"Her discovery confirms the importance of the Links of Noltland as one of the most fascinating prehistoric sites in Scotland. It is an incredibly rich settlement site which is advancing our understanding of our Neolithic to the Bronze Age ancestors.

"The site is in our care, but is severely threatened by wind erosion, which has removed the sand that protected the well-preserved houses, middens and fields for 4,000 years.

"Historic Scotland is now leading a race against the wind with further excavations being carried out for us this summer."

Historic Scotland senior archaeologist Richard Strachan said:

"None of the archaeology team have seen anything like it before. It's incredibly exciting. There is a strong possibility that it has been a votive offering to mark the abandonment of the site."
moss Posted by moss
16th June 2010ce

Links of Noltland (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Links

Orkney Archaeology News

Sigurd's article on latest discoveries
wideford Posted by wideford
27th August 2009ce
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