The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Ness of Brodgar

Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork


Reached the Ness of Brodgar around dinner-time, in between the guided tours, so decided not to ask to look at the finds. Re Brodgar Boy what in one view did look idol-like (despite that lop-sided third 'eye') in another was distinctly a broken-off top with a short 'stem' at the bottom. Now that the rest has been found the object is two-and-a-half times as long and looks like a mini-staff (a symbol of authority and/or for ceremonies, or a representation of one ?). Including the 'neck' and that stem there are three circumferential grooves that might have been for rope - you can easily imagine it with tassels ! In digging the midden of Structure Eight they have found a stone incised with an earth sign [Pars Fortuna]. . Structure One has so far produced several dozen incised stones, the last what what they take for a representation of a comet (but a circle with three trailing lines has other meanings). But the most common symbol is what they are calling a double-triangle and associating with a bee, though these also been 'read' elsewhere as butterflies (over at Banks Chambered Tomb there are vees/chevrons, which are seen as birds). Pre C14 dating one at Stonehenge was wrongly identified with the Cretan labrys (double-axe). Much has been made of Stenness infuence on the Avebury area, so is this another indicator ? Finally on site the Neolithic roof tiles were removed, only for more to be revealed at the same place after further digging - the imp of the perverse wonders if this is a dump rather than collapse in sensu strictu.
Despite the very strong wind the first thing that I did was go up the viewing platform. The lighting being distinctly flat all structures tended to merge - in these conditions what is needed for photographing features is a little light rain I recall. First new item to 'pop out' the monumental hearth in Structure Ten. ImmediatelyI thought of the one in the Stones of Stenness circle, though I think comparisons will instead be made with Barnhouse 'village'. Next I saw a long slab with ends framed by angle topped orthostats. This must be the probable Structure Ten entrance they have found - having been caught out before by dodgy contexts they are holding back judgement until they can be certain it does not belong to another period or structure (I saw what could be another rectangular feature [or part of a passage/'street'] directly in front of it). Coming down again it did not surprise me that nothing further has happened to the NE corner that took my fancy when I came here with Orkney Blide Trust the previous week (not realising we would stay for the whole 90 minute tour I'd had to come back for The Work photography) as it is at the very edge of the dig. The day I came seemed to be dedicated to cleaning and recording several parts of the site so I tried to avoid getting in their way. Nothing major looks to have appeared in the sides overlooked by the spoil heaps - I would dearly love to find out where that drain goes to in the piece by the western edge. Filling the appended SW corner Structure Twelve still sits in splendid isolation from the rest of the buildings as far as I can tell. Either that will change in future seasons or it is telling us something. Going round the final side and that massive squat standing stone still has pride of place in the SE corner. Does it extend much below what we see now or will it prove as shallow rooted as the red orthostat they have recently removed ?
Last year they lterally got to the bottom of the Lesser Wall of Brodgar, only to find that it stood on paving and possibly earlier structures. This year geophysics has confirmed that it bridges the ness and it is back to being part of a wall circuit encompassing the site they are investigating (could the paving be an extended base ??). The Kockna-Cumming chambered mound still lies outside the whole and the Brodgar Standing Stone Pair straddle the wall. Are the stones from a prior age or were they put there later than the wall, either much later to show where it was or immediately after to mark it out ? Don't be misled by its narrowness in comparison to the Great Wall as only a ditch seperated the 4m thick Great Wall from one ouside of it 'only' 2m thick. Still thicker though - might there be a presently unlocated other Great Wall in parts still virgin to excavation ?? If the remains below the Lesser Wall are from an earlier period then might we re-interpret the putatative structures and likely hearth found in testing outside the Great Wall as coming from that time too instead of post-dating the wall as originally theorised? Certainly the public perception of the wall's primacy needs revising. Indeed it is my opinion the that the Great Wall (and possibly the circuit) comes yet later in the scheme of things than first thought.
wideford Posted by wideford
14th August 2011ce

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