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Holm of Papa Westray

Chambered Tomb


Neolithic carving raises eyebrows

A remote Neolithic burial mound on an Orkney island may contain carvings of human eyes and eyebrows, it has been revealed.

The stone is inside the Holm of Papa Westray tomb.

Historic Scotland believes it is linked to the find of a carving believed to be Scotland's earliest human face, dating back thousands of years.

That small Neolithic sandstone human figurine at Links of Noltland was believed to be up to 5,000 years old.

Richard Strachan, senior archaeologist with the Historic Scotland cultural resources team, said: "Initial comparisons do show a similarity in use of this eyebrow motif and may point to the possibility that the markings in the cairn are meant to show human eyebrows and eyes, as the style is very similar to the figurine.

The previous carving find was said to be of great importance
"Alternatively, we may be seeing the re-use of a motif familiar to the carver and applied to different contexts with different meaning.

"This is highly intriguing and raises yet more questions about Neolithic people's attitudes to artistic representations of human beings."

He added: "Images of people are very rare indeed, which some people believe suggests that it was considered taboo.

"But the discovery of the figurine shows there were some exceptions, and the lintel in the tomb may suggest that there were situations where particular features could be shown."

The Holm of Papa Westray tomb's remote location can only be reached by private boat hire.

Experts described the previous find of the figurine as one of "astonishing rarity".

Fascinating photo.....
moss Posted by moss
18th September 2009ce

Comments (3)

I'm really surprised the human eye and eyebrow carvings are being reported as if this was a new finding, these are documented elsewhere, not least in the MA. After 6 years of going to Papay I finally got out to the Holm earlier this year, and went inside the tomb - a fantastic experience and made even sweeter by the difficulties of getting there! Posted by janeb
21st September 2009ce
You should never be surprised when it comes to newspaper articles and headlines ;). But Greyweather has a photo of the 'eye' on the site - date 2003; to be honest can't quite see it as an eye/eyebrow need a lot of imagination to interpret it that way, it could just as easily be decorative as the chevron patterned stone in the corner. moss Posted by moss
21st September 2009ce
The probably first report was made by G. Petrie in PSAS 2, 1854-7, page 60-1:
rockartuk Posted by rockartuk
21st September 2009ce
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